Hungarian Sketches in Peace and War
by Mor Jokai
HUNGARIAN SKETCHES IN PEACE AND WAR.
FROM THE HUNGARIAN OF MORITZ JÓKAI.
WITH PREFATORY NOTICE BY EMERIC SZABAD, Author of Hungary Past and
EDINBURGH: THOMAS CONSTABLE AND CO. HAMILTON, ADAMS, AND CO.,
LONDON. JAMES M'GLASHAN, DUBLIN. MDCCCLIV.
CONSTABLE'S MISCELLANY OF FOREIGN LITERATURE.
EDINBURGH: THOMAS CONSTABLE AND CO. HAMILTON, ADAMS, AND CO.,
LONDON. JAMES M'GLASHAN, DUBLIN. MDCCCLIV.
EDINBURGH: T. CONSTABLE, PRINTER TO HER MAJESTY.
THE TWO BRIDES.
Jokai is one of the most popular of the Hungarian prose writers of
fiction that sprang up a few years before the late war. His wit,
flowing style, and vivid descriptions of Hungarian life as it is,
joined to a rich fancy and great intensity of feeling, soon made him a
favourite with Hungarian readers.
Among the earlier of his productions, those best known are a novel
entitled, The Common Days, and a collection of minor tales, published
under the title of Wild Flowers.
The present volume has been written for the most part since the late
memorable national movement, and embodies descriptions of several of
the direst scenes in the civil war which devastated Hungary from the
year 1848 to 1850.
Most of the Hungarian literati were, at the close of the war, either
roaming in foreign countries, or wandering in disguise through their
native land; and the field of literature for a long time threatened to
remain neglected and barrena monument of national grief and
desolation! Those patriotic writers who had for years wielded the pen
with the noblest impulses thought to do their duty best by letting
their highest faculties lie dormant; and laid aside the lyre rather
than bring unacceptable offerings to a fatherland laid low, and at the
mercy of foreign swords. And who will deny that there is sometimes
great virtue in silence, and that the tongue that speaks not is often
more eloquent and heroic than that which dares to utter sublime truths
even at the foot of the gibbet? Many of the noble-hearted of Hungary
resigned themselves to such a martyr-like silence, and persevere in it
to the present day; while the great bulk of the people, unwilling to
enhance the triumph of their victorious enemies by a show of unavailing
lamentation, followed their example. Pesth, which had been the scene of
literary activity, was at once deserted; the bards of Hungary,
abandoning their homes to the wantonness of a foreign soldiery, went
back to the districts whence they had come, there to mingle with those
peasants whose chivalry and patriotism afforded constant themes to
their lyres. Their renewed intercourse with their rustic countrymen
served again to revive their hopes, quenched as in the grave.
In the sketches of Jokai, the reader will find many original
delineations of Hungarian life among the middle-class nobilitya race
of men whose manner of life and thought cannot fail to be interesting,
however cursorily described. But the Hungarian peasant is in his way no
less attractive. Nothing can be wilder than his dress, consisting of a
sheepskin cloak (bunda), or a similar habit of the coarsest cloth, a
shirt, scarcely reaching below the waist, and wide linen drawers, to
which boots do not often form the necessary complement; yet his easy
demeanour, delicate feelings, and especially his language, are such as
to put him on a level with the educated classes. In conversation he
will often use a more dignified style than a noble, who, by his
exclusive privileges, has had ample scope for oratory in the county
assembliesselect with astonishing tact the best lyrical productions
of the day, and immortalize the lay by a tune of his own composition.
These qualities of the Hungarian rustican insight into whose
character will be given to the reader by a few camp scenes contained in
this volumemust appear the more striking if we remember that the
class to which he belongs was for centuries in a state of serfdom, from
which it was only liberated by the late Revolution.
Independently of the various other calamities which prevented the
development of the physical and mental resources of Hungary during the
last three hundred years, the feudal system alone was an insurmountable
barrier in the way of progress. The privileged classes were for the
most part devising how to kill the time, while the labour of the
peasant provided them with the means of gratifying their propensities,
rarely disquieted by the backward state of the country, which in their
eyes seemed all perfection. Properly speaking, it was only since the
year 1825 that matters had begun to exhibit a material change in this
respect. Many of the most conceited and thoughtless among the nobles
had gradually allowed themselves to be convinced that arts and sciences
might add to the charms of an easy life; and that national greatness
demanded something more than hospitable roofs, fertile plains, and vast
herds of cattle. The political and literary activity displayed by
Counts Szecheny and Kolcsey found noble followers, and produced
unexpected and astonishing results during the last twenty-five years.
Still, compared with other countries, the progress of literature was
slow; and the works of the most popular authors, though thrown off in
comparatively small impressions, were long of reaching second editions.
The cause of this result must be sought in the fact that reading is by
no means universal among the Hungarians. Among the nobles, who had the
means of buying books, only a few cared to do so, while the condition
of the peasants prevented them from becoming in any way the patrons of
literature. This apathy was undoubtedly owing in great part to the
absence of a central national government; the effect of Hapsburg rule
had always been to crush the political institutions of the country, and
repress its noblest efforts, regarded as the sure forerunners of
revolution. The Court of Vienna, besides excluding from public office
and emolument such as were known for their independent principles and
national feelings, now began gradually to arrogate to itself the right
of censorshipan institution which alone would have sufficed to
cripple the intellectual progress of the country.
Such, however, was the mental activity of the present generation,
that Hungarian literature, despite the numerous obstacles it had to
encounter, made rapid progress, and created in the minds of the people
a spirit of inquiry and a desire after intellectual pursuits hitherto
unknown. Never before had the cultivated tongues of the West been so
much studied, or so many valuable translations made from the German,
French, and English literatures. That the influence of the first was
originally the strongest, and that several of the leading writers in
philosophy and history took for their model the German school, will
appear no matter of surprise. The rising writers of a more recent date,
however, insensibly turned their attention to the more lively
literature of France, and afterwards to that of Britain; and while some
read with rapture the fictions of Scott, Bulwer, and Dickens,
politicians learned to admire the doctrines of Adam Smith and Jeremy
Bentham. Of poets, none were more extensively read and more generally
admired than Byron and Moore. Thus did the merely literary progress
march on boldly and combine with the new political movement to further
a change which had already made itself felt in every grade of society,
and which was the more remarkable and satisfactory from having followed
a too long period of stagnation.
A few words will suffice, and perhaps not be superfluous, to bring
to the English reader's mind the deplorable causes of this long
The fifteenth century, which illumined the sky of Italy, and thence
reacted on the rest of Europe, brought for Hungary nothing but an
endless series of wars, distinguished by dazzling military
achievements, against the hosts of the Sultans, and turning out in the
end but useless victories, productive of most ruinous effects and
general exhaustion. The next age proved still more disastrous. The race
of the Hunyadis, who in the preceding century had struck terror into
the hearts of the Ottomans, had disappeared; the weak princes that
ruled after them perished among the carnage of battle, to leave the
crown of St. Stephen vacant, and to open a way for the Hapsburgs to the
Hungarian throne. At this juncture, coinciding with the great religious
movement in Germany, which was rapidly spreading to the banks of the
Theiss, the position of Hungary became more desperate than ever,
although the events that followed far surpassed the gloomiest
anticipations. While the majority of the people chose a native for
their king, a part of the aristocracy declared for Ferdinand of
Austria. The rival kings, unable to vanquish each other, called in to
their aid the two most powerful monarchs of Europe. The former invoked
the assistance of Solyman the Great; Ferdinand found a willing ally in
his brother, Charles V. Thus it happened that, till the beginning of
the eighteenth century, Hungary presented the aspect of a vast camp,
exposed to the insolence of foreign mercenaries and the tyranny of the
Hapsburg emperors, and at once protected and laid waste by its allies
the Turks. Unfortunately, the Mussulman military colonies, which
subsisted in Hungary from the time of Solyman to Achmet III., while
adding to the distress of the people continually menaced by famine even
during the years of temporary peace, were more ignorant than those whom
they affected to protect, and therefore failed to produce on the
Hungarians those effects which the Moors, in circumstances somewhat
similar, had wrought upon the Spaniards. Nor is anything now left to
call to mind the presence of the Turks in Hungary, except a few words
that slipped into the Hungarian language.
The state of the country in the eighteenth century, somewhat
relieved by the reign of Maria Theresa, was, after such a long series
of calamities, not much calculated to foster the cultivation of science
and poetry; nor did any fresh symptoms of the national life spring
clearly into view before the beginning of the present century. True,
that even amid the storms of the past generations, there appeared from
time to time writers, whose names survive to the present day. But, with
a few exceptions, chiefly in the department of poetry, all the works of
that time were but insipid imitations which aspired to be thought
original, but were little fitted either to please or to instruct.
After such a gloomy past as has been here shortly described, it will
seem very natural, that with the awakening of the national mind the
career of literature, suddenly interrupted by the late war, should be
bold, steadily progressive, and triumphant, despite the narrow and
contemptible canons of censors. As to prose fiction, it must be
observed that it is of quite recent growth. The beginning of this
species of composition was made about fifteen years ago by Baron
Nicholaus Josika, who soon found successful rivals in Kuthy and Baron
Eötvös. Jokai, who is now the favourite of the public, belongs, as has
been already observed, to the younger staff of writers.
It would be a mistake to imagine, from the Eastern origin of the
Magyars, that the tales and romances to be found in the Hungarian
language bear any resemblance to the Arabian Nights, or the
familiar poetry of the East in general. None of the writers above
mentioned carries the reader to fairy realms, and superhuman
characters. In plot, tendency, and execution, Hungarian prose fiction
is identified with the modern novel of the rest of Europederiving,
withal, its most pleasing characteristics from the peculiar features of
Hungarian life and history, as well as from the native idiom, which
differs entirely in its figures, and many of its expressions, from the
other cultivated languages. It must, however, here be added, that the
more the time approached to the great catastrophe, the more the general
literature partook of a political charactera circumstance
attributable to the censorship, which did not allow political questions
to be discussed in their proper place. The novel or romance writer, not
being so suspicious to the censor as the politician, often intermingled
his love scenes and adventures with single touches, unfinished periods,
and marks of exclamation, which escaped the vigilance and attention of
the scissors-holder, but were only too well understood by those to whom
they were addressed. Even the literary journals, sternly interdicted
from meddling with politics, swarmed with allusions to the questions of
the day; and while tending to cultivate the taste of the public, their
usefulness was greater than might have been expected in rearing new
labourers for the field of literature. In the presence of a public
eminently conservative as regards book buying, not a tenth part of the
more highly gifted youth would have gone farther than the composing of
some slight specimens while at college, had it not been for the
encouragement given by three weekly journals. The first of these
periodicals, entitled the Honderu, was started by Lazarus
Horvath, a gentleman who had travelled much in Europe, and was familiar
with high life, and who is known as the unsuccessful translator of
Childe Harold. The two other journals, started afterwards, were
conducted by Frankenburg and Vachot. It was through the medium of these
latter papers that the young bard Petöfi sent forth his wild, touching
strains, and that Jokai, his intimate friend, became gradually known,
when the unexpected events of 1848 changed the face of the whole
country. Disastrous civil feuds, commenced on the one hand by the
Slavonic population in the south of Hungary, and on the other by the
Wallachians or Roumins in Transylvania, were followed by a desolating
general war; and for nearly two years nothing was heard but the din of
arms. Two or three daily papers alone testified that literary life was
not yet extinct in the nation. As almost every one did who felt in any
way capable of serving his country, Jokai followed the Government
(obliged to abandon the capital to the Austrians in the beginning of
1849) to the town of Debreczin, on the other side of the Theiss, where
he conducted for a short time a small political Journal. The rapid
progress of the Hungarian arms in the same year, followed by the
Russian invasion, was, as the reader may be aware, suddenly converted
into a most disastrous defeat. The subjugated country was handed over
to General Haynau; the nationality of its people was destroyed, and its
noblest defenders fled into other lands, or awaited certain death in
their own. The country people, struck with fear and amazement, confined
themselves in sombre silence to their homes, which were filled with
disguised literati, and other classes of delinquents; the different
races of the population, their hands yet wet with blood, gazed
confusedly on the ruins of their own working; the streets of Pesth, the
gay capital, were deserted, and the single voice that broke the deep
silence was that which pronounced in its official organ sentences of
death, imprisonment, and confiscation. In such a state the country
continued for several months, when even Haynau, a few days before being
removed from his post, began to loathe his work, and to sign pardons as
carelessly as he had hitherto subscribed sentences of death. It was at
that juncture that a few straggling literati, gradually assembling at
Pesth, commenced to issue a literary periodical, to which Jokai largely
contributed. The press, it must be observed, was placed under the
control of the police, established on an Austrian model. The head and
chief members of the police belonging to the other parts of the
Austrian empire, and totally ignorant of the Hungarian language, were
naturally obliged to employ some natives to peruse the literary
productions and translate their contents; after due consideration of
these, the verdict was passed. The consequence of such a state of
things was, that very frequently a single seemingly portentous phrase,
or even the mere title, doomed to oblivion the most innocent work of
the brain, while more substantial writing was allowed to make its way
into the country, and frequently to be again prohibited, after having
become familiar to thousands.
Most of the sketches contained in this volume, and which Jokai wrote
under the name of Sajo, underwent this fate. The latest production of
Jokai's pen is a novel entitled The Magyar Nabob, which is
highly praised. His strictly historical pieces, depicting scenes of the
civil war, though recalling the more vividly to mind the dreary and not
yet forgotten past, were most eagerly read in Hungary; nor will the
English reader peruse without deep emotion the fate of the Bardy
family, contained in this volume.
Within the last two years, the state of literature in Hungary, if
judged by the number of new books published, appears astonishingly
progressive. The chief reason of this phenomenon may be found in the
denationalizing measures of the Government, attempting to suppress the
national idiom by excluding it from the public schools, and
substituting in its place the Germana policy attempted without
success by Joseph II. about the end of the last century.
That the peoplethough now perhaps more willing than ever to give
their full support to literatureare inclined to look with some
suspicion at the productions of a press in the hands of foreign
authorities, and that many branches of a more serious nature than
novel-writing must remain excluded from the sphere of literary activity
in a country subjected to martial law, need hardly be remarked.
Besides, some of the more prominent and elder authors still
persevere in their sad mournful silence, while others have sunk from a
state of patriotic gloom into mental imbecility. But whatever shape
Hungarian literature may henceforth assume, it is undoubtedly true that
much that has issued within the last few years from the Hungarian press
is worth translating; and I believe that the present volume, presented
in a faithful and easy translation, and likely to be soon followed by
several others of a similar class, will be found to introduce the
English reader to scenes hitherto undescribed, and to characters as
interesting as unusual.
One evening, towards the end of summer, my uncle, Lorincz Kassay,
the sub-sheriff of the county, was seated on a bench before his
porte-cochère, which stood wide open, without bar or gate, as
beseemed the entrance to the house of an hospitable Hungarian
True, half a dozen dogs, nearly as large as bears, were lying lazily
about the court, and might have rendered the entrance embarrassing to
persons of hostile intention; but as for strangers in general, these
honest guards were too well accustomed to see them treated as the
angels were by Abraham, to take any further notice than by a friendly
bark, and a slow shake of the tail.
Uncle Lorincz Kassay sat enjoying his pipe, and calling across the
road to his assistant, who was likewise seated at the door of his
house, enveloped in the same comfortable fumes. The conversation might
have been carried on with more facility had one of these worthy
gentlemen crossed to the other sidethe road being wide, and a
stentorian voice necessary to make one's-self understoodbut the mud
lay so deep between the two houses, that it was severe work for carts
and carriages to get through; and when it was absolutely necessary to
cross the road, the passenger was obliged to make a considerable
circuit, by the garden and meadow, holding on by the rail, besides
returning the same way: consequently Uncle Lorincz and his ally found
it less troublesome, and more convenient on the whole, to exert their
lungs in the manner above mentioned.
Meanwhile my readers may be curious to learn how I am related to
this worthy gentleman; but this indeed I cannot tell. I only know that
he is called by all who know him Lorincz Kassay, bacsi; and I would
advise my friends likewise to adopt him as such, for he is a thoroughly
honest and honourable country gentleman, and will never give them cause
to blush at his name. Let us keep up the good old Magyar custom of
calling our elders by the familiar titles of uncle and aunt, while we
are privileged to those of nephews and nieces.
[Footnote 1: Bacsi, contraction for batyaelder
brother, or uncle.]
Uncle Lorincz belonged to that medium class whose duty is to manage
the laws and rights of the people, keep up their national prerogatives,
look after their interests, in short, to labour without noise or
fame,a man of whom neither history nor poets speak, for the upright
and honourable man is not so rare a character among us as to render it
necessary to emblazon his name in history; and what could a poet make
of an honest man who has neither romance enough to carry off his
neighbour's wife, nor to shoot his best friend through the head for
looking askance at him? Such a man as Uncle Lorincz, for instance, who
comes into the world without the aid of star or horoscope, grows up
without becoming a virtuoso on the piano, goes through his classes
satisfactorily, and without occasioning any mutiny, and, finally,
returns like a dutiful son to his parents, who assist him to look out
for a good wife, whom he marries without any poetical occurrences; and
who, when his parents are gathered to their fathers, inherits their
blessing and their property unencumbered by debtfor this class of our
countrymen consider debt as a species of crime; their principle being
that an honest man should not spend more than his income. This
principle had taken such root in Uncle Kassay's mind, that, rather than
run up an account at the shoemaker's, he has been known, in his scholar
days, to feign illness and keep his room, when his boots needed
mending, until the necessary money arrived from home; and the same
sense of honour, combined with the most lavish hospitality,
characterized him through life.
Having been directly called upon by the county, he had accepted the
situation of szolgabiro or sheriffwhich the Hungarian takes upon
himself ex nobili officiofrom a generous sense of duty, rather
than for the lucrative advantages attached to it, which by no means
compensate for the dinners he is obliged to give; but he readily makes
a sacrifice for the honour of the employment, and the confidence of the
people in that incorruptible conscience which is chosen as the earthly
providence of an entire district, to keep order and administer justice
among twenty or thirty thousand people.
At the time our story commences, Lorincz and his worthy assistant
were actually discussing some affair of great moment across the road,
when their attention was attracted by shrill voices, and, looking in
the direction of the sounds, they perceived a conveyance which it will
be worth while to describe at length, as such things are not to be met
with every day, particularly now that railroads are making so great
innovations in our old habits and fashions.
It was a gentleman's calèche; the leather was somewhat spotted and
gray, which may be easily accounted for, however, by the continual
roosting of poultry on its roof. When or where the machinery had been
contrived, it would be impossible to decide, for, according to
historical date, suspended calèches existed in the days of Lajos I. The
form of the body might be compared to a water-melon cut in half, which
body was so convulsed by its four high springs at each irregularity of
the road, that the tongues within ran the risk of being severed in
twain when they attempted to speak, while their owners would certainly
have been pitched out, had they not held well on by the sides. It was
as impossible to open the doors as it was to shut them, for which
reason they were permanently secured by well-knotted ropes. Above the
two hinder wheels a large bundle of straw was attached, which
threatened at every jerk to light on the heads of the inmates. Before
this worthy ancestral memorial three very quiet horses were attached, a
pie-bald, a bay, and a white, all three up to their ears in mud, and
assisting one another with their shaggy tails to whip the reins out of
the coachman's hand, while their hides exhibited various graphic traces
of the whip.
In truth, the noble animals did not lack good-will, but only the
necessary capabilities for the station they now filled, being honest
cart-horses, neither born nor bred to draw an iron-springed calèche;
and, sensible no doubt of their inability, they paused every ten
minutes to draw breath instead, and to regard each other with doleful
On one of these occasionsnamely, when the horses paused, and did
not seem disposed to proceed furtherone of the four individuals
inside thrust forth a head, and called in a shrill voice to the
coachman to stop.
The voice proceeded from one of the fair sex, whom we cannot at
present describe, as the shawls and mufflers in which she was enveloped
only permitted a glimpse of her respectable nose to be seen; three
other individuals filled the vehicle. Beside the lady sat a figure in a
fur mantle, whose only visible points were a vast beard and a
meerschaum pipe, the bowl of which must have been guarded by some
singular providence, from having its neck broken at every jolt of the
Opposite to mamma sat a hopeful sprig, whose head was so well thrust
into his lambskin cap, that only two scarlet ears protruded to view,
turning and perking with unwearied scrutiny to suit their owner's
curiosity. The last place was occupied by a smaller boy, whose large
wondering eyes were fixed on the muddy world around, and whose legs and
feet coming constantly in contact with those of the gentleman opposite,
obliged the latter to draw up in the most inconvenient manner possible.
The horses having again paused, the lady, working her way with great
exertions through various cloaks and mufflers, called to the coachman
as before to stop, and, addressing one of the bystanders, who stood
gaping at the carriage, asked various questions relative to the
position of Mr. Lorincz Kassay's house; and having received
satisfactory answers, she once more muffled herself in her wrappings,
and desired Marczi to proceed; on which he gave a lash to one horse,
and the half-turned pole giving a blow to the second, the third took
the hint, and they all three began to move, and proceeded in order for
a few minutes, until they arrived in the village, where they once more
paused and hung their heads, while the lady, for the third time, called
to Marczi to stop, fixing as usual on some person whom she wished to
This time, the gentleman of the fur cloak and meerschaum pipe,
losing all patience, cried out, Zsuzsi, my dear, why the tartar are
you calling to Marczi again, when the plague is our having to stop so
Cannot you see, you thick-skull? rejoined the fair lady sharply,
that is just the reason I call to him to stop, that folks may not see
we cannot get on!
Fortunately the last person addressed happened to be the sheriff's
footman, who offered to conduct them to the house, desiring the
coachman to follow, which was easy to say, but not so easy to put in
execution, until the good steeds had recovered breath in due time.
Meanwhile, Uncle Lorincz, observing that the carriage was coming to
his house, blew the embers out of his pipe, and arranging his beard in
two points, advanced to meet his guests. After a good deal of labour,
the vehicle at length struggled into the court, and, unfortunately, in
the confusion occasioned by the general efforts to rise from the heaps
of wrappings, the good man managed to tread on some sensitive member of
his wife's foot. She returned the compliment with a thrust from her
elbow, which caused him to stumble, thereby bringing the hot bowl of
his pipe in contact with the face of his youngest boy, who, uttering a
cry of pain, raised both hands to protect his face, at the same time
striking up the pipe, which broke between the old gentleman's teeth.
Which of you did that? cried he furiously, pulling the piece out
of his mouth, and raising his hand threateningly over the heads of the
youngsters. But before the stroke of chastisement could be
administered, Marczi, throwing back his muddy coat, directed it so
skilfully as to fall right over the boys' heads, filling the eyes of
the whole party with dust and mud; and in the confusion of this
unexpected attack, the delinquent thought fit to make his escape as
best he could out of the carriage, smearing his clean white trousers
with the wheels. All these accidents took place in a much shorter
period than I have taken to describe them.
The sub-sheriff, his footman, and other retainers, had now come up
to the assistance of the travellers, and after many ineffectual efforts
to open the carriage doors, they were obliged to give up that point,
and lift out the inmates like so many bundles.
The noise had brought down the lady of the mansion, who waited at
the foot of the stairs to welcome her guests. She was a comely little
round-faced woman, attired in a simple but well-made costume, to which
the small flounced apron and blue-ribbon cap gave an air of coquettish
smartness. She held by the hand a little, dark-eyed, strawberry-lipped
maiden of about six years old, who, half hiding behind her mother's
dress, looked like an amourette preparing to take aim.
The travellers being at last safely landed, the lady advanced to
Uncle Lorincz with an air of amiable confidence, and began a formal
Dear and worthy cousin, I have the pleasure of presenting to you in
my own person Susanna Sajtari, a cousin on the maternal side; being
en route, we could not think of passing our dear cousin's house.
Welcome, welcome; God bless you! cried Uncle Lorincz, saluting the
lady with several hearty kisses on each cheek. I am overjoyed at this
unexpected happiness; pray come in, the servants will carry up
Allow me to present my husband, began the lady.
Whist! don't tell my name, interrupted the gentleman in the fur
cloak; let me see if my dear cousin remembers me, and laughing
heartily, he seized both of Uncle Lorincz's hands, and waited for him
It was rather an embarrassing situation for Uncle Lorincz, who had
not the slightest recollection of ever having seen his dear cousin
Pooh! how can he recognise you in that cap? cried his faithful
partner, snatching from her husband's head the prodigious two-eared fur
cap, and exposing a good-natured countenance, with a large, bald
forehead, and features which we meet in a thousand faces, without ever
distinguishing one from the other.
Ay, do you know me now? asked the worthy gentleman in a tone of
Uncle Lorincz blushed to the ears, and would have given his best
meerschaum to have been helped out of the unpleasant dilemma.
Oh! certainly, I rememberquite well, he replied, rubbing his
forehead with the tip of his forefinger; perfectly remember; only the
name will not come into my head.
Well, do you remember when we sat together at the Gyor elections in
Exactly, the name is on the tip of my tongue.
Among the four thousand people who had assembled for the Raab
elections ten years before, it would have been difficult to recall the
features of one in particular.
Well, I am that Menyhert Gulyas
Gulyasi!exactly, so you are! Welcome with all my heart! cried
Uncle Lorincz, much relieved at being at length freed from such a tax
on his memory, although not a bit the wiser even after hearing the
And these are my two sons, Sandor and Peter, continued the worthy
lady. Go and kiss your aunt's hand, boys.
Sandor and Peter rushed forward in obedience to their mother's
command; the younger succeeded in taking possession of his aunt's hand,
which he fervently pressed against lips and nose, while she slily put
the other behind her back.
You are too old to kiss hands, my dear nephew, she said, at the
same time proffering her cheek to Sandor, who was so embarrassed at the
idea of kissing his aunt, that he scarcely knew what he was about; and,
after the ceremony, was thrown into such a tremor, that he trode
successively on his father's, mother's, and brother's toes.
The great house-dogs now approached to take their part in the
patriarchal reception, thrusting in their cold noses, and licking the
hands of the guests. And here we must observe, the house-dog is an
infallible index of his master's character. Where the great fellow
comes forward with marks of affection, you are always sure of a hearty
welcome; but where, on the contrary, he lies still and growls, you may
expect the question: When will you be pleased to continue your route?
Having entered the hall, the compliments were renewed, according to
the Hungarian fashion: Hozta Isten (God has brought you); receive us
into your good graces, &c. &c. Bundas and pelisses, shawls and
kerchiefs, began to unwind from the persons of the travellers, and by
degrees each assumed his natural form.
The worthy father of the family was a simple, good-natured looking
man of about fifty, though the blackness of his teeth, caused by
incessant smoking, made him look considerably older. An amiable grin
played on his large, good-humoured countenance, while the colour which
bloomed on his cheeks might have still passed for that of the
spring-time of life, had not the deeper tint in his nose told more of
autumn, and the good red grape.
He wore a green dolmany, descending to the knees, with broad braid,
and oval buttons; and, standing with his hands behind his back, and his
two spurred feet apart, he looked round on the company with a
His worthy partner was a short, spare figure, with a tolerably
good-looking face, the most remarkable feature of which was the nose.
This nose could be turned up or down, and twisted right and left, at
its owner's inclination, to suit the pleasure or displeasure she
desired to express; and the family had learned to interpret its various
evolutions so well, that in strange company their eyes were constantly
fixed upon it, as the steersman's on the prow; and good Mr. Menyhert
Gulyasi has been observed, on more than one occasion, to stop short in
the midst of his speech at some sudden contortion of the leading
feature of his better half.
Nephew Sandor was a long strip of a youth, with smooth, puffy
cheeks, and a snub nose. Nature had amply provided him with hands and
feet, of which he seemed painfully aware; for he kept the former in
perpetual motion, as if endeavouring to get rid of them, while the
latter had a peculiar call for stumbling over and treading on
everything they came in contact with.
The smaller boy never left his mother's side, holding fast by her
dressfinding it at the same time a convenient place of refuge for his
When the guests were made tolerably comfortable, and their hosts had
sufficiently insisted on their considering themselves at home, the lady
of the house disappeared for a few minutes to give some hasty orders in
the kitchen, to the execution of which, sudden cacklings of various
feathered tribes in the court-yard bore conclusive testimony.
When she returned, Uncle Lorincz invited Menyhert and nephew Sandor
to his own sitting-room, to smoke a pipe with him. Before reaching the
apartment, however, it was necessary to pass through several doors, at
each of which a scuffle ensued with nephew Sandor, who could not be
prevailed on to enter before Uncle Lorincz. There was a cheerful fire
in the open stove, with a large wood-basket beside it; comfortable
arm-chairs were ranged around, and the pipe-stand stood forth
invitingly with its many silver-covered meerschaums.
Pray sit down, said Uncle Kassay, rolling out the arm-chairs, and
showing his guests a good example.
Gulyasi seated himself opposite; but Sandor could by no means think
of such a thing.
He is not accustomed to much sitting, observed his father.
Well, well, let him do as he likes, said Uncle Lorincz, leaving
him to stand like a propping-post against the wall; for he was not
aware that our nephew required to have the chair pulled under him, and
to be forcibly pushed into it, before his modesty would allow him to
accept such an offer.
Take a pipe, said Uncle Lorincz, handing to him the tobacco-bag.
The youth declined.
Much obliged, said his father for him; Sandor does not smoke. He
did smoke, however; but was too well brought up to let strangers see
that he knew anything of the comforts of life.
Uncle Lorincz and his guest were soon engaged in an interesting
conversation, by which it appeared that Menyhert had his own ideas, and
ventured to express them too, in the absence of his better half, and
uninfluenced by the motions of her nose.
He declared, in the first place, that it would be much more prudent
to make steam-horses to draw boats instead of steam-boats, and there
would be no risk of the boats being blown up if the boiler burst. Then
he remarked that it would be advisable to propose at the next Diet a
prohibition of the cultivation of potatoes, as the increase of this
article in the market would be highly prejudicial to the growth and
sale of wheat.
Then he uttered imprecations against the new system of pasturage, by
which Government proposed introducing sheep instead of the great studs
which had hitherto been kept on the heaths; so that in case of war,
continued the worthy gentleman, the noblemen would be obliged to ride
Finally, he expressed his opinion that the rising generation should
be interdicted the use of mantles, as the students were in the habit of
concealing their violins beneath them, and amusing themselves at the
public houses, dancing and fiddling, to the neglect of their studies,
thereby making this garment a cloak to all bad morals.
A loud Ha, ha, ha! he, he, he! suddenly broke forth from the
corner in which Sandor was standing. Both gentlemen turned to see what
was the matter.
Father's shadow on the wall is so funny when he speaks! exclaimed
the youth, holding both hands over his mouth to restrain his laughter.
Perhaps you are cold, nephew, as you are standing with your back
against the stove? said Uncle Lorincz, fearing that Menyhert was about
to reprove his hopeful son. Come, my boy, you will never get a wife if
the girls catch you standing behind the stove.
That would be a sad story, said the father, making grimaces to his
son; for we are now en route to get a wife for him.
The tartar! exclaimed Uncle Lorincz, turning to the stripling with
interest; so we have a bridegroom here! come, man, let us look at you
a little nearer.
But it would have required a large pair of tongs to draw our nephew
from behind the stove.
And what does the young man say to the prospect of a fireside of
his own? and who is the chosen fair one? asked Uncle Lorincz.
Menyhert crossed his legs and looked up to the ceiling, as he was
wont to do when discussing matters of weight. Well, the girl is no
other than Carolina Berkessy, the only child of my worthy friend, Gabor
Berkessy, pronotarius of the county of Csongrad; her father promised
her to my eldest son, when she was still in the cradle.
Well, all I can say is, she is a very fine girl, replied Uncle
Lorincz; a very fine family altogether, and not a thing to be
rejected, if he gives his consent.
Gives his consent! cried Menyhert, not without some offence; and
why should he withhold his consent?
Why, only because my nephew is rather youngthat's all, replied
What of that? said his father proudly; he has sense enough: I
will venture to say that in any company. He attained eminence in every
department at schoolBut what the tartar smells so strong? You are
singeing your coat, boy! I desired you not to lean against the stove.
Sandor lifted up one of the flaps of his coat, in which a large hole
was already burned.
Sit down, you ass! said Menyhert to his accomplished son, who eyed
the damage, as if considering how to get it washed out.
Uncle Lorincz, seeing that the conversation was taking rather an
unparliamentary turn, endeavoured to revive the former subject. And
probably my nephew has passed his examination too? he asked.
And with great credit, replied his father, forgetting the burnt
coat; that severe G, who puzzled all the young men, was an
examiner. Tell us what he asked you, Sandor; come, say it off.
Sandor was quite ready to say it all off, but he required to be
But at that instant the wood-basket swallowed up our nephew, who had
sat down upon it, and, unfortunately, not having been intended for such
service, the lid had broken under him, and he disappeared inside, with
the exception of his hands and feet, which still remained without.
At this sight Uncle Lorincz could no longer contain himself, but
burst into such a hearty laugh that he almost rolled off his chair.
Happily, by dint of struggling, the basket overturned, and Sandor
succeeded with some difficulty in creeping forth.
His father, having first looked to see that no bones were broken,
prepared to make a terrible explosion; and it is impossible to say how
the affair might have ended, had not the footman entered to announce
that supper was ready.
* * * * *
Meanwhile Aunt Zsuzsi had also initiated her hostess in the
mysteries of their journey, with all its circumstances, and various
innocent additions, such as, that her son Sandor had attained the
highest honours, and that all the girls in their neighbourhood were
desperately in love with him, although he never looked at one of them,
considering it his duty only to fall in love with whoever his parents
should choose for him, and so forth. This interesting conversation was
suddenly interrupted by loud cries issuing from the nursery; and little
Klarika appeared, sobbing out that Peterke had first twisted her doll's
neck, and then threatened to strike her.
You naughty boy! said mamma, as the little urchin came sliding in
behind, where shall I find a rod to punish you with? Is this the way
you behave in your aunt's house? Come here, directly.
Peterke not only would not come out, but retreated under the bed,
looking out from below at dear mamma, and neither threats nor
entreaties could prevail on him to quit his position. Supper was now
Just stay where you are, said mamma, and I shall lock the door
till we return from supper.
The head of the family having entered with his guests, the whole
party proceeded to supper, with the exception of little Peterke, and
took their places round the table, which latter ceremony, however, did
not take place without a good deal of trouble, each person paying
compliments to his neighbour, during which the lady of the house was
obliged to use force to make her guest sit at the head of the table;
while a complete struggle took place at the opposite side between Uncle
Lorincz and Sandor; the former, however, being the stronger of the two,
at last succeeding in placing our nephew beside him.
You must learn, my dear boy, said Uncle Lorincz, what the high
sheriff of Bihar taught me while I was his clerk; when I was invited to
my principal's table, and I too pleaded for the lowest place'Just sit
down where you like,' said the excellent man, 'and rest assured,
wherever that is, it will always be the lowest place.'
When a blessing had been asked, the savoury gulyas hus was
brought round, the very name of which, even on paper, seems to emit
that delicious flavour which every Hungarian housewife knows so well to
[Footnote 2: A favourite national dish. It is a stew or hash of
beef, with onions and red pepper, and other spices.]
After the gulyas came the fogas; fortunately the footman carried
it round, otherwise the company would have been obliged to draw lots
who should be helped first. When it came to Sandor's turn, he declined,
to the surprise of every body.
[Footnote 3: A fish said to be peculiar to the Balaton or Platten
Lake in Hungary, and to the Black Sea and the Wolga. It is the Perca
You don't eat fogas? said Uncle Lorincz, opening his eyes wide.
Thank you, replied his father for him; he eats very little in
Hm! perhaps the boy is particular, thought Uncle Lorincz.Well,
there may be something else which he will be able to eat.
Then came a dish of good turos galuska, the crisp pastry smiling
from out of the rich curds and cream, and still hissing on the dish.
[Footnote 4: Balls of pastry in curds.]
You will eat some of this? said Uncle Lorincz, turning to his
neighbour, as the dish came round.
I thank you, I am not hungry; and I have a little headache.
But our nephew was as hungry as anybody else, and had not the
slightest headache. The fact was, he was not accustomed to eat till
after he had been pressed a dozen times, and his plate filled perforce.
For once, however, there was short work with our nephew's customs;
for Uncle Lorincz, believing what he said, sent on the good turos
galuska with a sigh, admitting it was certainly no cure for a headache;
and consequently Sandor was obliged to keep up the farce during the
whole time of dinner, while his eyes were actually starting from his
head with hunger.
Drink something, at least, if you do not eatit will do your
headache good, said Uncle Lorincz, taking up the good Eger wine.
But Sandor would never have forgiven himself had he not snatched aside
his glass as Uncle Lorincz was in the act of pouring out the wine.
[Footnote 5: From Eger or Erlau, a town between Pesth and Tokay.]
Much obliged, said his father, but he does not drink wine.
The tartar! he does not! exclaimed Uncle Lorincz; well, he is a
rare childneither eats, drinks, nor smokes! why, he will be a
millionnaire! I am heartily sorry that you have got a wife for him
already; otherwise I should have asked you to wait until my girl is
Meanwhile there was another individual who followed quite a
different course from that of nephew Sandor, and that was little
Finding himself locked in, he first only pettishly came out from his
stronghold, waiting for some one to coax him to come to dinner; but,
finding that the door was locked, and that knives and forks were
actually clattering without him, he took it quite to heart, and began
calling to mamma to let him out.
Never mind him, let him cry, said mamma, who found this little
episode highly interesting. But the kindly Klarika, when she thought
nobody was observing, hastily concealed a turkey's pinion and a large
piece of apple-tart, and ran off with them to the nurserycontenting
herself with this generous revenge for the havoc done to her
playthings. On this the little urchin became quiet.
When supper was over, the mutual compliments were repeated, during
which Sandor took an opportunity of thrusting into his pocket a roll of
bread, which he had not ventured to touch at dinner.
Aunt Zsuzsi now opened the door with great solemnity, to release the
little delinquent, whom they found dancing about with greasy cheeks,
and holding up in triumph the remains of the turkey's leg.
Oh, you rascal! exclaimed mamma, catching hold of him, and wiping
his cheeks; go directly and kiss your aunt's hand, and beg her pardon
for being so rude.
Peterke slid over, drawing his mouth and nose to one side, as if he
expected that the hand he was ordered to kiss was preparing to give him
a box in the ear; and it was only on being convinced of the contrary
that he resumed his former confidence, and ventured to ask for another
piece of apple-tart, on receiving which he had the complaisance to show
the company, by way of a return, how a large piece of pastry might be
crammed into two cheeks.
Who was enduring greater torment than our nephew Sandor all this
time? Hungry as a wolf, with only a small white roll in his pocketand
how to eat it! Wherever he went, he was sure to be seen; his only
resource was to wait till everybody went to bed, and then eat it in the
dark; but the two gentlemen, meanwhile, got so deeply engaged in
conversation, that there was no saying when it might end.
At last he summoned up courage to say he would go out a little, and
walk in the garden.
In the garden! repeated Uncle Lorincz; why, it is quite dark, and
the mud is very deep.
I will sit upon a bench.
That will be a fine walkha, ha, ha!
Perhaps the air would do my head good.
Well, do as you like, my boy; you are at home here.
Sandor, finding himself at liberty, descended to the garden in great
delight. Just below the back window of Uncle Lorincz's apartment, which
looked out upon the garden, stood a winter pear. Uncle Lorincz thought
he heard this tree shaking, and going to the window, he could
distinguish our nephew pulling the unripe pears, and cramming them into
Well, he is a strange youth! thought Uncle Lorincz, as he returned
to his seat.
Before retiring for the night, the guests took leave of their kind
hostsdeclaring that they must set out at break of day, and would not
disturb themafter which they were conducted to their apartments, and
soon lay buried in the great down feather-beds and snow-white pillows,
with their neat laced and ribboned covers. The coachman had been
desired to harness the horses at four o'clock, and not to awake
anybody; but when our provident guests rose in the morning, they found
the whole household on foot, and a comfortable breakfast prepared, of
coffee, rolls, cold meat, and plum brandy. This time, Uncle Lorincz
gave his bashful nephew no peace until he had actually forced down his
throat all that was eatable and drinkableseeing that he was in the
habit of being thus treated. When breakfast was over, there was a
mutual interchange of affectionate speeches, and Uncle Lorincz once
more packed up his guests in their cloaks and furs, thrusting a long
cylindrical bottle of plum-brandy into Uncle Menyhert's pocket, while
his wife put a large, fresh-baked cake into Aunt Zsuzsi's hand, and
little Klarika provided the young Sphinx with an ample supply of cold
pastry; and after exacting from their guests a promise to visit them
again on their return, they all took leaveUncle Lorincz accompanying
them a few miles on horseback, to point out the best road across the
* * * * *
And now we must beg our readers to draw on their three-leagued
boots, and step into the neighbouring county. Here, too, the roads lie
deep in mud; for the rain continues during seven weeks in these
districts, as it does in the East Indies. Here, too, are villages on
the highroad, and houses with open doors, and travellers hastening
towards them. But now it is question of a house whose doors are shut,
and of travellers who do not stick in the mud.
A handsome carriage, drawn by four spirited grays, was driven by a
young gentleman, while the smart-liveried coachman sat beside him.
The youth was slightly flushed with the exercise: he wore a
low-crowned hat, and light summer dolmany, while his embroidered fur
cloak lay across the seat. Guiding the horses dexterously over the
difficult roads and rickety bridges, he finally turned aside about half
way through the village, and drove rapidly towards a dilapidated house,
before which he was obliged to rein up his horses, as the
porte-cochère was closed.
Hej! ho! cried the coachman, leaping from the box, and knocking at
Go in at the side-door, and open the porte-cochère yourself,
Matyi; but take the whip with you, or else the dogs will tear you to
The coachman did as he was desired. No sooner had he reached the
court, than a terrible encounter took place between the dogs and Matyi,
who swore and lashed away with his whip until he had succeeded in
opening the gate.
The tumult brought out a buxom dame, whose appearance betokened
somewhat more than a cook, and somewhat less than the lady of the
house. Standing at the entrance, with her arms a-kimbo, she exclaimed
in a sharp, shrill voice: What diabolical noise is this, I should like
to know? are the Turks or the French coming, eh?
Meanwhile, Matyi having opened the porte-cochère, the
carriage drove into the gateway; and the young man, leaping from the
box, and throwing the reins to the coachman, stepped up to the dame,
who eyed him askance, with an expression of dried plums, as if doing
her best to make herself as disagreeable as possible to the new-comers.
Ah! my sweet Boriska, said the young man gaily, how handsome you
have grown since we last met! I thought you were to be married that
carnival; but I suppose it was premature, eh?
Well, you have grown ugly enough yourself, Master Karely, since I
saw you last: you were a pretty child, but I should not have known you
Thank you, Boriska, dear. Is my uncle at home?
Where else should he be?
Because I have come to see him, with my mother and sister.
What! are they here too? said the dame, fixing her sharp eyes on
the carriage, like a two-pronged fork. Well, I can't understand how
folks can leave home, and wander abroad for weeks.
Call my uncle, there's a dear girl, and you can help one another to
The beauty cast another sour glance at the vehicle, and disappeared
into the kitchen. Karely, meanwhile, opened the carriage door, and the
mud being deep in the gateway, he lifted out the two ladies in his
arms. One was his mothera calm, ladylike person about forty, with a
sweet, melancholy expression: the other was his sistera merry,
mischievous looking little fay of about twelve, with bright sparkling
eyes and rosy cheeks, and a constant smile on the never-closed lips.
Welcome kindly! We will not wait for them, said Karely, laughing,
as he lifted them out and opened the door, which Boriska had shut
Our readers having had a slight glance at the travellers, I must
inform them that the lady who has just arrived is Mrs. Erzsebet
Hamvasi, sister of Abraham Hamvasi, to whose house they have come, and
which had been left equally to the lady and her brother by their
parentsalthough Erzsebet Hamvasi, subsequently Tallyai, had left her
brother in undisturbed possession, only desiring an occasional
reception when en route.
As Karely opened the door, Boriska appeared at the farther end of
the room, calling into the stove: Come out; you have guests here. To
which a voice from within responded: Let them wait. After a few
minutes, a door opened behind the stove, and a man of spare bent figure
advanced towards the travellers. His face was disfigured by small-pox,
and rendered grotesque by a pair of stiff gray moustaches, which grew
straight forward from under the nose, leaving only the extremities of
the lips visible, and giving him very much the appearance of an otter.
He wore an old stuff coattoo cool for winter and too warm for
summerthe sleeves of which were turned up to the elbow; for he had
just come out of the stove, which he had been plastering, and both
hands were covered with mortar.
To judge by his countenance, he certainly did not seem endeavouring
to look pleased to see his dear relations; and though the lady greeted
him amiably, he did not seem much inclined to open the other side of
the door at which she was standing, waiting for her brother's welcome.
What! so many of you! he exclaimed, pushing open the door with his
elbow; where the tartar are you all going?
The lady shook her head placedly, and pointing to her brother's
dirty handsHow now, dear brother! she said, in a half reproachful
and half jesting tone; must you really do such work yourself?
It is no shame to work, replied her brother; never trust to
others what you can do yourself.
I would kiss your hand, dear Uncle Abris, if you would put on
gloves, said Karely, laughing.
Easy enough for fine gentlemen like you to speak, but a poor man
must do what he can.Boris! bring me a bowl of water to wash my hands,
for these gentle folks are ashamed to stand in the room with me.
Dirty the dishes, indeed! cried Boris sharply; there is the tub.
Master Abris went and washed in the tub; then, lifting up the
bed-quilt, he wiped his hands and face in the sheet, with so many
grimaces, that it was evident he was undergoing an unusual penance.
The guests meanwhile entered the sitting-room. Every room has its
own peculiar perfume. On entering some apartments an agreeable friendly
odour, which we cannot account for, greets the sense, while others are
so close and so unpleasant that we involuntarily retreat. The apartment
of Uncle Abris was among the latter. The walls were soiled and daubed
with pencil scrawls of several years' standing; there was a thick
carpet of straw and feathers beneath the beds; the furniture was an
inch deep in dust, and it was impossible to see out of the windows,
which had cobwebs in every corner.
The lady sighed deeply as she entered this apartment; one could
almost read on her countenance, that she was recalling brighter days,
when everything in the house looked very different from what it did
Uncle Abris, having very coldly kissed each of the party,
endeavoured to smile a little; but not succeeding, he gave it up, and
his features resumed their usual hard, anxious expression.
His guests would gladly have taken off their cloaks, but where
should they put them down? It would have been ruin to clean clothes to
come in contact with anything in the room.
I should like to sit down somewhere, Uncle Abris, said Sizika,
looking round her with innocent scrutiny.
Well, my dear, here are plenty of chairs, and a sofa, said Uncle
What! may I brush off all this pretty dust? asked Sizika
roguishly. I thought it was put here to dry.
Karely laughed; while his mother put her finger to her lips, and
shook her head; and Uncle Abris answered quietly, Dust we are, and
unto dust we must return, and therefore we need not despise dust; and,
in order to strengthen the golden precept, he lifted the flaps of his
coat, and, wiping three chairs for his guests, seated himself on a
The lady placed herself down opposite to her brother. One was
silent, the other did not speak; and so they remained nearly an hour.
Occasionally one or other would sigh deeply, Heighho! on which the
other would reply, a quarter of an hour after, Ay, ay!
Karely having gone out to look at the horses, Erzsike went to the
window, and, wiping one of the panes with her pocket handkerchief,
tried to look through it. You must not be perplexed, dear readers, at
our having first called this merry little fairy Sizika, then Erzsike;
both denominations come from the same source, and there is perhaps no
name in the Hungarian language which admits of so many variations to
represent the various gradations from the utmost refinement to the
greatest coarseness; hence the tender, caressing Siza, the gay, roguish
Erzsike, the robust, noisy Erzsu, and the dirty, untidy Boske.
It never entered Uncle Abraham's head to ask his guests if they
wanted anything; he only sat and sighed. Matyi, the coachman, a smart
lad from Lower Hungary, now entered; he had been a csikos, and was
an inveterate specimen of cleverness and roguish insolence.
[Footnote 6: Csikos, who take care of the horses and studs of
the vast meadows or heaths, called puszta.]
Is there any hay to be sold here, sir? he asked, saluting the
master of the house.
Hay! hay! for whom do you want hay?
Not for myself, sir, but for my horsesthat is, not for my horses,
but for my master's.
Well, let's see; I believe I can give you a little, said Hamvasi,
weighing each word, as he took the key of the barn from his pocket, and
went out. The guests could hear the murmurs of Boris outside the
door:The tartar take them all! to come to an honest man's house with
four horses, just that they might devour more hay, as if two were not
Master Abraham gave the key to Matyi, making him promise not to drop
any of the hay about, because it was dear; and, after watching till he
had returned, he re-entered, and resumed his seat without speaking.
In a few minutes, Matyi came in again: Where shall I find a tavern
A tavern! what do you want a tavern for?
Not for the horses, sir, but for myself. I want to get a glass of
Well, I will give you one just now, said Uncle Abris, and taking
the key of the cellar, he went out, desiring Matyi to wait at the
Boriska stormed and dashed about, scolding and holding forth to
Scarcely had the old gentleman re-entered and silence resumed her
reign, than Matyi appeared a third time: Boriska wants to know, sir,
what she shall cook for supper?
Supper! are you used to sup? asked Uncle Abris, turning to his
That we are, replied Karely quickly, before his gentle mother had
time to say the contrary.
Master Abris sighed deeply, rose and went into the kitchen, whence
he was heard talking in a low voice to Boriska, who, on the contrary,
spoke as loud as possible, so as to be heard in the next room.
What! that beautiful fowl!have you lost your senses? I make a
fire now! there is no wood cut. Let them eat cheese, there is plenty of
bread. Indeed I shall not open the pot of preservesI can't knead
puddings, I've a sore hand. I am not a cook; and why don't you keep
one, if you want to turn innkeeper?
All this was heard distinctly by the guests within. And now, for
once, Uncle Abris really got into a passion, and, going out to the
court, he struck down a renowned cock with the rolling-pin, and,
lighting a fire himself, he set to work to pluck it, till Boriska,
seeing it was in vain to oppose, snatched the cock from his hands and
turned him out of the kitchen.
In about two hours the banquet was ready. The unhappy cock had been
burnt to a cinder, and his bones were not harder than his flesh. The
half-baked bread stuck to the knife when it was cut, and to the palate
when it was chewed; and the dishes were so full of salt and cayenne
that tears came into the eyes of the eaters.
The lady sat at the head of the table, and scarcely tasted anything;
she sighed deeply on seeing the worm-eaten holes in her dear mother's
table-linen, the well-known knives and forks loosened from their
deer's-horn handles, and the old family plate all bruised and broken.
What may not a man come to who has no wife to keep his house in order!
During supper Uncle Abris, having taken some wine, ventured to break
the silence, and asked his sister whither she was en route.
She replied, smiling, that they were going to visit Gabor Berkessy.
What! to that detestable man! exclaimed Uncle Abris, somewhat
under the influence of the wine.
Why is he a detestable man? asked Karely, half amused, half
Because when I was a student in Debreczen he informed upon me once
for visiting a tavern. I was punished by twenty-four hours'
confinement, and I have never forgotten it since.
And yet it was good thirty years ago!
And what are you going there for, if I may ask? continued Uncle
The lady did not answer; on which Siza took up the conversation: We
are going to look out for a wife. Mr. Berkessy has a daughter who would
just suit my brother.
Hm! replied the old man, ungraciously looking over his shoulder at
Karely; you are still a child.
That is just the reason we want to get him married, replied Sizike
demurely. He is a good lad, but somewhat unsteady; when he has a wife,
his understanding will come. And then, she continued, it is much
better to marry young, than to grow old, and fall into the hands of
The child spoke these words with such peculiar gravity, that Karely
could scarce restrain his laughter; her mother shook her head, and
Uncle Abris looked as if he were sharpening his teeth to devour her.
Hm! you know how to talk at least; can you bake bread too?
Oh! that I can, uncle, though I do not know that I could dress the
szalonna for it.
[Footnote 7: Szalonna is a kind of fat which they are fond of eating
with bread in this district; but the same name is applied to the wet
dough which is found in badly-baked bread.]
Uncle Abris saw that he was losing ground, and moved back his chair,
which was a signal to the rest of the party to rise; and, after the
usual ceremonies on leaving table, the guests asked to be shown to
their apartments, whither Uncle Abris conducted them, giving each a
candle, which he begged them to put out as soon as they went to bed.
There were rooms enough in the house, but it was melancholy to see
them. Pease, maize, and onions lay in every corner; and the beds were
just in the condition in which they had been left by the last
Karely went to the smaller of the two rooms which had been allotted
them, and in a few minutes he was in bed.
Dear mamma, we shall freeze here, said little Sizike, feeling the
ice-cold pillows; what shall we do? and knocking at Karely's door,
she asked if he were asleep.
What do you want, Sizike?
We cannot undress here, Karely, there are no curtains on the
Well, blow out the candle.
O dear! I am afraid in the dark!
Then lock the door.
The door will not shut properly.
Well, wait, Boske, I will get up and sleep there, and you can come
here with mother, and, jumping up and out of bed, he dressed and came
into the next room, putting the ladies into his.
And now confess, Erzsu, he said, trembling with cold; why did you
cheat me out of my warm bed into this cold one?
Because you had warmed it already, replied Erzsike, merrily.
There is nothing gayer than the childish mirth between brother and
sister. Even the mild lady laughed heartily. But it was no easy matter
to get warm, even under feather beds. Such rooms attract the cold all
the winter; and even in summer, if the weather is damp, one is apt to
get chilled and cold. Scarcely had our travellers fallen into an uneasy
sleep, than an inconsiderate cock crew loudly just under their windows.
Karely, do you hear the ghost of the cock we ate last night? cried
Sizike, waking up.
It was out of the question trying to sleep again; and in a short
time they all rose and dressed, feeling in every limb as if they had
There is a great art in making beds. In some beds you fall asleep
immediately on lying down: the pillows, which have been placed out in
the sun, have still the freshness and natural heat which they have
attracted; the mattresses and feather-beds are so skilfully arranged,
that every limb feels at home, and on whichever side you lie, you awake
on it next morning; while in others, turn which way you will, you can
never find a placenow shivering, now perspiring, you try to sleep,
but start up in a fright,the woodworm gnaws and bores, the bed creaks
and cracks. If at last you do fall asleep, it is to dream of robbers,
and when you awake you cannot turn your head. Strange that no book has
yet been written on this very necessary science!
Our travellers had still a grievous ordeal to go through, and this
was breakfast. They would gladly have avoided it; but Uncle Abris
gravely declared, that having fulfilled his part of the
obligationhaving roasted the coffee, and boiled the milkthey must
not be wasted. So they all sat down; and although the coffee was a
little burned, and the milk a little run, and the rolls somewhat stale,
no one grumbled; but, finishing as quickly as possible, prepared to
depart. The carriage then drove up, and Uncle Abraham assisted his
guests into it. He now smiled in good earnest. They are off at last,
and will want nothing moreit was easy interpreting his smile. Having
kissed them all, and wished them a prosperous journey, he thought he
had passed all dangers, when Matyi exclaimed: I quite forgot to drink
that glass of brandy which your honour wanted to give me.
Uncle Abris once more grew pale, and retreating into the parlour,
came out with a glass about as large as a thimble.
Is this all for me, sir? asked Matyi, holding up the little glass
in surprise; and having emptied it, he looked round, as if to say, Was
there anything in it?
Will you have half a glass more? asked Uncle Abris, with
Thank you, sir, replied Matyi; I am afraid of overturning the
carriage. Bless your honour! bless you, Boriska! we shall be back again
in a week.
It was lucky that the horses now set off, for the party could no
longer contain their laughter. Uncle Abris and Boriska thrust their
heads out of the door, and it was not until the carriage had totally
disappeared from view that they ventured to return into the house.
Boris never ceased scolding all that day. Is it for this, indeed,
one has relationsthat they may come and lay waste the house, while we
are stinting all the year round just to stuff these locusts! The cows
don't eat so much in a week as they used for their horses; and that
little, saucy girl could only make bullets of the good bread, and throw
it about. She will eat it some day though, I'll answer for that, the
delicate dear! And then the work they gave folks! In fine, good Mrs.
Boriska summed up her complaints by declaring, that if they ever set
foot in the house again she should leave it, and let Master Abris shift
for himself; and then, slamming the door in his face, she left him to
his solitary reflections.
* * * * *
Our readers are by this time aware that there is a certain Gabor
Berkessy who has a marriageable daughter, to obtain whose hand two
marriageable young men are hastening from different parts of the
country, accompanied by their respective families, as beseemed.
We entreat our readers' patience to accompany us once more to a
third county, and then we shall all hasten to Uncle Berkessy's
In the capital town of the county of S, a young widow resided,
called Julia Csalvari. It was the general opinion among the ill-natured
gossips of this town that the fair widow was a great coquette. The fact
is, that Julia, during the few years of her wedded life, had been kept
very strictly by her husbandan old gentleman, who was miserly,
stupid, and jealous in an equal degree; and consequently, after his
death, the restrained feelings of a vivacious nature burst out the more
vehemently. Her husband had left her the mistress of a considerable
fortune, and thus the handsome young widow found herself surrounded by
admirers, who flattered her vanity without touching her heart. She
rode, gave soirées, and frequented balls, and dressed in great style;
all this was enough to make her be spoken of in the capital town of
S. Besides, an old gentleman who had formerly been an assessor, who
was a sort of uncle of Julia, and lived with her as protector and
secretary, supplied the good neighbours with constant theme. Everything
that occurred in Julia's house was repeated by him in the noble and
bourgeois casinos of S; even that she never wore the same pair of
silk stockings more than once, and that she was vaccinated every year!
In short, the smallest circumstances, from love-quarrels downwards,
might be procured fresh-hatched every morning from Uncle Nanasy, who
was thus continually getting into scrapesat one time running the risk
of being called out by one of his niece's reported admirers, while at
another some discarded cavalier threatened to thrash him; and more than
once he was obliged to remain at home for fear of being shot through
the head. And then he had even more to endure from the fair Julia's
caprice than from the dangers without. But all this did not cure the
old gentleman: he still gossiped as much as he could, denied as much as
he could, and bore the results with wonderful patience.
Julia's relations constantly pressed her to marry, and give up this
sort of life; but Julia was little disposed to exchange her present
freedom. And indeed she was so wilful and capricious, that had she
preferred any one person in particular, she was quite capable of
rejecting his suit, and never seeing him again, if her relations urged
her to marry him. Her marriage was thus put off from year to year; as
soon as anything serious began to be reported, some quarrel was sure to
take place on one side or other, and not unfrequently the whole affair
would pass over, while those most nearly concerned knew nothing of it.
About the time when our story commences, Uncle Nanasy entered the
kitchen one afternoon to discover what was being cooked, after which he
announced himself to the dame de compagnie, to ascertain in what
humour his fair niece was to be found that day; and having satisfied
himself on that point, he entered Julia's room, to tell her all that
had been spoken of in the cafés that morning. He found her at
her toilet; her maid was curling her long golden hair, while she
reclined carelessly in her arm-chair and played with the silken
tresses, which descended to the floor.
Good morning, my sweet pretty little niece! lisped Uncle Nanasy,
tripping over to Julia with galopade steps, and seizing her small hand,
which he covered with kisses from the wrist to the tips of the nails,
exclaiming between each one: Ah, what a dear little hand! how charming
to get a box on the ear from such a soft hand! And how is my sweet
little niece to-day? whose head is she going to turn with these long
ringlets à l'Anglaise? Ah, you merciless Penelope! do you know
that a duel took place on your account this very morning? The handsome
Lajos, that dark-eyed youth, got a cut across his forehead, he, he,
he!he is a lucky man. Let me arrange this ribbonthere's a love,
just through these tresses. See, is it not tastefully placed? would not
Uncle Nanasy make a capital tirewoman?he, he, he!
Julia did not wish to laugh at all this nonsense; and turning to her
maid, desired her to bring her shoes.
No, I shall not allow anybody to bring them but myself! cried
Uncle Nanasy, holding back the maid, and running to fetch them; then,
kissing them a dozen times, he placed them before her, while Julia took
off her small embroidered slippers, and let Uncle Nanasy put on her
satin shoes, as little embarrassed by his presence as if he had been
her maid. Then rising, she continued her toilette before the Psyche;
while Uncle Nanasy stood by, exclaiming, How angelic! how lovely!
until he almost poked his chin out of joint with admiration and wonder.
Nanasy bacsi, said Julia gravely, and still looking at herself in
the mirror, I am going to intrust you with a very serious affair, and
one about which you must not gossip until it has been duly brought into
Well, my love; am I not the most trustworthy keeper of secrets?
Julia frowned. I am not joking, bacsi; but I tell you seriously,
that if you speak of this affair to anybody before it takes place, I
will tear your hair.
Nanasy bacsi will be grateful for the favour, said the old
gentleman, pulling off his peruke and holding down his head, which was
as smooth as a water-melon. At this sight, the waiting-damsel burst
into an immoderate fit of laughter; on which her mistress, frowning,
ordered her to leave the room.
Uncle Nanasy tried every means to amuse his nieceput on his wig
awry, opened his snuff-box with a variety of grimaces, performing
pirouettes and courtesies of the renaissance era; but all in
vainJulia would not laugh.
When they were alone, she shut the doors, seated the old gentleman
on the balzac, and standing before himListen to me now, Nanasy
bacsi, she began; I am going to be married.
Nanasy bacsi became all surprise and curiosity.
You must go to-day, she continued, to V, find out the high
sheriff, and get me a dispensation. You need not come back from
there, but go straight on to Pesth, and order all that is requisite for
a weddingwhat that is, you know better than I do; arrange everything
for this day week at the latest. I want to have it all over by that
[Footnote 8: A dispensation is required when the marriage is not
proclaimed three times in the church.]
Depend upon me, my angelin three days all shall be ready, or you
will hear that Nanasy bacsi is no more.
You must have my bridal dress made in Pesth, within the shortest
Depend on me, my darling; I shall employ the most celebrated
milliners, Varga or Sovariand if I do not bring the most magnificent
bridal dress within a week, advertise me in the papers as a stray dog,
for which the lucky finder will receive five florins!
Write to my relations at the same time, continued Julia, and
invite them to the ceremony on this day week; but for this you will
have time enough in Pesth. I have ordered the carriage, and now you
have nothing to do but to get into it and drive off.
Yes, my dear, I understand; but what am I to say to our relations?
Why, what have we been talking about?that I am going to be
Yes, but to whom?
Why, is it necessary to know that too?
Ha, ha, ha, ha! why, that is the facit of the matter.
How odd!well, say Kalman Sos.
Kalman SosKalman Sos; I have heard the name once before. How do
you spell itwith two o's or two s's?
With as many as you like!
Who, or what is this fine young man?
A poet! replied Julia, with a grave sigh.
But what else?
Julia stared at her uncle, partly in surprise, partly in anger, as
if to say, How simple you old people are! and then, with a disdainful
shrug, she replied, Fate was generous enough, I think, in bestowing on
him a rich mind, without adding a rich position too.
Nanasy bacsi did not understand this logic, but contented himself by
thus filling up the rubric: Whoever he may be, actor, dancing-master,
or what else, she will certainly be able to manage him.
Julia left the old man to think what he pleased, while she prepared
with her own hands all that was necessary for his journeynot
forgetting his shaving materialswrote her commissions in a
pocket-book, in which she placed a heap of uncounted notes, and,
thrusting it into Uncle Nanasy's pocket, she assisted him to put on his
great-coat and fur cloak, drew his travelling-cap over his head, and
would not let him breathe until she saw him seated in the carriage,
that he might have no time to betray her secret.
Nanasy bacsi, however, bursting with the importance of his mission,
happened to meet one or two friends as he was passing through the town,
and, thrusting his head out of the carriage, without stopping, he told
the first that his niece was going to be married in a week, the second,
that he was on his way for a dispensation, and the third, that he was
going to Pesth for dresses and confectionary; and, in about an hour
afterwards, the whole town was talking of the secret marriage, and
guessing who the happy bridegroom might befor Nanasi bacsi had not
told his name, husbanding his news, like all true gossips, that he
might have something new to relate when he came back.
Meanwhile, Julia returned to her room, with the placid conviction of
having arranged all her affairs to satisfaction, and gave orders to her
servants not to admit any person except Kalman.
In a short time the sound of steps echoed along the corridor, and
Julia assumed her sweetest smiles; for our readers are no doubt aware
that, under such circumstances, namely, when one is in love, even the
sound of a boot-heel may be recognised. In this respect, only the
editors of newspapers have a finer instinctwho, it is said, tell,
even from the sound of a step in the street, whether it is the postman
with subscribers or a poet with his verses. In this case the magnetism
was reversed; Julia expected the poet, not the postman, and she was not
Kalman Sos opened the door.
He was a pale, interesting youthnot that his paleness alone made
him interesting, but he entered the room as Hamlet is expected to enter
with the skull, and, walking with pathetic steps towards Julia, he
raised the fair lady's hand to his lips, where he held it for a long
time, and would probably have been holding it still, had not Julia
withdrawn it, exclaiming, Something is the matter, Kalman, that you
are so sad to-day?
Sad I am, indeed! replied the poet.
For mercy's sake! exclaimed Julia, in alarm, what has taken
Nothing, nothing, replied Kalman, but in a tone which left his
fair bride to surmise the worst; and then, sinking into an arm-chair,
he gazed vacantly before him.
Yes, yes, there is something the matter with you, cried the lady,
really frightened; I entreat, I desire you will tell me instantly!
The poet rose à tempo, and once more taking Julia's hand, he
gazed long and earnestly into her eyes. Do you believe in
presentiments? he asked at last, in a faltering voice.
Have you never known that feeling, something like a waking dream,
which overtakes us in our gayest hours, as if some cold hand passed
across the brow, and the smile which had risen on the lip dies away; as
if suddenly a magic mirror rose before us, reflecting our own
countenance, but pale and dark, as if warning us not to rejoice?
O stop! cried Julia, on whom these words made an uncomfortable
impression; it is not right to speak of such things; let us talk
rather of our wedding. Have you heard from your relations yet?
Kalman assumed a Byronic look, and, turning up his eyes, You are
happy, Julia, he replied; ah! you are still a child, and can rejoice
Now, what nonsense, Kalman! you know I am at least five years older
than you are, if not more.
Ah, Julia! years alone do not constitute time. You are still a
child at eight-and-twenty, while I am an old man at twenty-four. Not he
who is furthest from the cradle is the oldest, but he who is nearest
the grave. It is the weight of days, not their number, that brings
wrinkles. I have suffered as much as would suffice for a life of fifty
Poor Kalman! sighed Julia, laying her fair hand on the poet's
shoulder. Her delicacy prevented her asking what the deuce had caused
him so much suffering; besides, Kalman might have been shocked at
hearing her give utterance to such an expression.
See! continued Kalman, at the very moment when I first beheld
your angel face, and my heart began to burn with the thought that I
might possess youcall you mine for everan ice-cold whisper seemed
to say, 'Rejoice not, all is uncertain till the day has come.'
But it is certain now, replied Julia, for I have sent for the
dispensation, and invited my relations; we shall celebrate the wedding
this day week.
Ha! this day week! do you not know that will be the thirteenth of
Indeed, I did not consult the calendar.
Ah, Julia! that number has a fearful influence over my fate!
Well, let it be the previous day.
Julia, you speak as securely as if you held the hand of fate within
Well, if you wish it, and I have no objection, should I speak
otherwise than of a certainty?
Kalman raised his finger, and with it his eyes, so that Julia began
to think he had discovered a spider's web hanging from the ceiling, and
was pointing it out to her. Fate hangs over us, he exclaimed, and
fate is capricious, Julia; broken hearts and withered hopes are
offerings in which she takes delight. Ah, Julia! you are happy if this
feeling has never breathed across your soul; if within your bosom's
world there are no magic chords on which the hand of prophecy strikes
wildly; it would have banished the roses from your face, as it has done
Julia was getting tired of all these unpleasant visions and magnetic
influences; and to give the conversation another turn, she seated
herself at the piano, and began to play a gay fantasia.
Kalman leant his elbow on the back of her chair; his dark
countenance seemed to pierce the future, while his eyes glared, and his
hair stood erectJulia could observe all this in the opposite mirror.
Then, again, he folded his arms and drooped his head on his bosom,
till, no longer able to bear the excess of his feelings, he started up,
struck his forehead, and exclaimed, in a state of exultation, Ah! one
such moment were sufficient for life; to hear those sweet accents, and,
hand in hand, heart to heart, expire together, breathing forth our
souls in one long embrace. Julia, do you not desire to die with me?
Indeed it will be very nice, when we have both of us reached a good
old age; meanwhile let us live a little while together.
Kalman gazed at Julia with an expression of pity: he felt with pain
how far beneath his own must that mind be, which could not comprehend
the fearful ecstasy of two persons dying together, who have nothing at
all the matter with them. He rose and paced the room several times,
like a wandering spirit who had no other calling than to terrify the
living; then seizing his hat with suicidal determination, he stepped up
to Julia, and exclaimed, in heart-rending accents: Farewell, farewell!
Heaven grant that my forebodings be not realized! And then, tearing
himself from her, he rushed out of the room as if in desperation.
Poor Julia was truly in despair, and fearing she knew not what,
despatched her servant after Kalman, to see that he did not harm
himself; and it was not until the man returned, and assured his
mistress that he had seen the young gentleman in the casino eating
roast-meat and green garlic, that she could at all compose herself.
Julia was occupied all that afternoon by visitors; and, much to her
surprise, she received calls from various persons who had not crossed
her threshold for several years before, who all endeavoured, by hints
and delicate advice, to allude to the secret which she thought was
already twenty miles offin fact, the whole town seemed perfectly
aware of her intended marriage.
She had now no other resource but to shut herself up in her own
apartment, and to see nobody. Reflecting upon Kalman's late visit, she
reproached herself for her prosaical remarks, which must have ill
accorded with the poet's sublime rhapsodies, and endeavoured to force
on her imagination some of those strange feelings, which she supposed
might resemble the unpleasant sensations caused by a cold in the head,
derangement of the stomachand having worked herself up to a state of
nervous excitement, she sat down to her escritoire, and began a long
letter to her bridegroom.
As she was in the act of revising a composition which she herself
scarcely understood, her maid entered the room with a letter.
Annoyed at being interrupted, Julia snatched it from her hand, and
glancing hurriedly at the address, recognised Kalman's handwriting.
Seriously alarmed, she held the letter in her hand without daring to
break the seal, in case she should read: When these lines meet your
eye, the writer will bethe thought was too horrible! Motioning to
her maid to quit the room, she opened the epistle with a trembling
hand: there were four pages closely written.
ADORABLE JULIA!Angel never to be forgotten!Have you ever seen
two stars so close to one another in the blue vault of heaven, that
with the naked eye you might take them to be but one, and which, ever
since their creation, have been revolving round one anotherwhen
suddenly an unexpected phenomenon takes place: one of these two stars,
impelled by an irresistible power, quits his companion, and rushing
forward through the universe, becomes a comet, whose fate is to wander
beyond the worlds, threatening the trembling stars with destruction. .
. . .
Julia's patience was not sufficient to go through four pages of
astronomy, and turning impatiently to the end of the letter, she read
As my father's wishes in regard to me are iron fetters, which
enchain me like Prometheus to the rock; and since he absolutely insists
upon my marrying the daughter of Gabor Berkessy, pronotarius of the
county of Csongrad, there remains no alternative but to die orto
obey. Were I to consider myself alone, it were bliss to choose the
former. But I can think of you alonethe despair, the derangement,
probably, my selfishness might cause you; and therefore I live and obey
for your sake, my adorable Julia! for your peace alone; and with tears
in my eyes, and anguish in my heart, trace these few lines, each word
of which is a dagger in the soul of him who can never forget, and lives
alone in your remembrance.
And these were the fatal forebodings, the mysterious visions! Julia
fell from the stars.
After a moment's brief reflection, however, the fair lady coolly
folded the letter, without deigning it a second perusal, and throwing
it into the fire with the one she had just written, she rang the bell;
then writing a few hurried lines, she sealed the note and handed it to
her maid, saying: Desire the groom to get a fleet horse instantly, and
ride after Nanasy bacsi to the sheriff's: should he find him there, he
may leave the letter and return; if not, he must go on to Pesth. My
uncle generally lodges at the Golden Eagle; but let him find him out,
and spare no expense.
* * * * *
Uncle Gabor Berkessy was a man of about sixty years of age, with
hair and beard snow-white; but though old in years, he was as young in
spirit and as active in limb as a youth of twenty.
He was the life and soul of every company, without ever offending by
his jests. His anecdotes were celebrated in the country; and when he
began to tell a story after dinner, it was impossible for the company
to keep their seats; and finally, when he himself joined in the laugh,
it might have been heard at the end of the town; for the thundering
peal could only be compared to what a lion's might be, if the
risibility of that mighty king of beasts could be excited. On more than
one occasion, when he had happened to be present at a comedy, the
actors were obliged to stop in the midst of their performance. First it
began slowlyha! ha, ha! ha, ha, ha! holding his handkerchief to his
mouth, and pretending to cough; until at last, as if a bomb had burst
within him, the fearful sounds would break forthha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
tears would roll down his cheeks, he would strike the board before him
with his fist, stamp on the ground, and engage the attention of all the
spectators; so that at last, whenever an actor heard the first ha! he
hurried over whatever was to be said, knowing that he had no chance
afterwards of being listened to at all.
I have descanted rather at length on Uncle Gabor's laughing faculty,
because, according to my theory, if a man can laugh heartily, he must
not only be a good-hearted, but a well-informed man; and as such
Berkessy was acknowledged in all the district. His countenance was a
faithful interpreter of his mind: the jolly round face and laughing
eyes, with their silver lashes; the knolly, flexible brows; the healthy
teeth and red lips; and the expression of goodness, impossible to
mistake, impressed on every feature, gave such a charm to his
countenance, that it was impossible not to feel comfortable in his
vicinity; and even the Christmas Legatus would have taken courage in
Uncle Berkessy was thirty years old when he married; and his wife
was an excellent soul, with whom he lived sixteen years of peaceful
life, without however being blessed by children. At last, when least
expected, the blessing arrived in the form of a little girl.
The happy pair were now twice as happy as they had been before; the
little Linka was the joy and light of their eyes, and the hope and
glory of both. They lavished upon her all the affection and tenderness
of their nature, hastening to gratify her slightest fanciesfor every
thought seemed concentrated in their only child; and, strange
providence! this indulgence not only did not spoil her, but rendered
her from day to day more amiable and more loving. The slightest hint
from her mother's eyes was sufficient to direct her, and she knew no
greater happiness than that of pleasing her parents; all their care and
tenderness found a kindly grateful soil within her gentle heart, and
was richly repaid. How unlike to most indulged natures, which are
generally like vinegarthe more sugar you put in, the stronger will
the acid be.
Lina was scarcely ten years old when she lost her motherthe
greatest loss a little girl can experience. All a father's attention
can never make up for the want of a mother's care; much will remain
unobserved by him which could not escape the ever-watchful spirit of a
Although this misfortune did not change Lina, she was more
thoughtful afterwards; but the cares of a household devolving upon her,
left her no time to indulge in melancholy. A great safeguard for a
young girl are her household cares: they teach her to respect herself,
they banish sadness, keep down the passions and false feeling, and give
true life to the young mind.
The little girl was the greatest comfort in her father's
bereavement: and as she grew up, her sweetness and amiability, and
excellent management, were the surprise and admiration of all the
families around; and no less than three suitors, as we have already
seen, were on their way to Uncle Berkessy on matrimonial speculation.
Our sweet little heroine's exterior, though pleasing in the extreme,
was not such as is called in the language of poets, beautiful. And here
I cannot help observing, that the manner in which these poetical
gentlemen dictate to the world in general is certainly most unfair.
According to their ideas, it is only a perfect beauty who dare lay any
claim to happiness; while all the others, whose faces cannot be
compared to lilies and roses, are born only to be deceived, and but for
their wealth would never appear in a romance at all. Real life,
however, gives them the lie; for we see family happiness bloom even in
households where the ladies are not painted for annuals. And how many a
mild and unpretending being do we find gifted with that delicacy and
true poetry of mind, which give to features not created for a painter's
model an attraction and loveliness that it would be impossible to
describe, for we can scarcely say what it is we find so agreeable; and
although we might turn with cold indifference from a mere sketch of the
features, no sooner do we see them lighted up by a smile, or hear an
accent of sympathy cross the lips, than a sweet fascination rises
within usthe eyes, the lips, the whole countenance, wins new
attractions; the soul assumes its power over the clay, and charms into
beauty what in itself is not so. Fortunately, nature seldom bestows on
any one the consciousness of being less handsome than her neighbour;
for that woman could scarcely be good-humoured, who, when she looked in
the glass, could not discover something which rendered her countenance
agreeable, and which others also will no doubt remark after some
observation. These ideas may, I fear, hurt the classic understanding,
and the lovers of art will be shocked to hear that the not beautiful
can also be subjects of poetry; but if mankind has so increased upon
earth as to mottle the Olympic regularity with many variations, who can
help it? The negro and the Laplander have their beauties; and some are
even bold enough to affirm that the mind of itself may render
All these deviations must not weary you, gentle reader, for you know
it is now a question of matrimony, and therefore you must read
patiently and not in vain.
Day was just dawning; the sound of bells broke the silence of the
village, and, one by one, the green blinds opened as the sun shed his
first rays on the windows of Uncle Berkessy's house. Two windows alone
remained closedthose of the room in which the old gentleman slept;
the others were all open, and the rooms filled with the fresh morning
air. The valuable old furniture was already dusted, and the polished
floors were shining like mirrors. In the first room, a great glass
chiffonnière stood opposite the windows, ornamented by pillars
supported by gilded angels. Among the china and cut crystal arranged
within, was that which Uncle Gabor's grandmother had received as a
bridal gift, and which she used until she was eighty-two years old, and
left in the same admirable order to her children. At the other side of
the room, stood two large beds, on whose heavy curtains a stag-hunt was
portrayed. Although nobody slept in those two beds, they were turned
down every sunny day, and the great feather pillows placed within the
double windows to air. Opposite the beds stood an antique cabinet,
ornamented by various carvings and pillars, of which it would be
difficult to discover all the quaint recesses and the secret drawers.
Between the windows stood an ancestral mirror, with its frame of
ornamental cut glass, the centre of which was decorated by a garland of
everlasting flowers, which might have hung there at least half a
century. In one corner stood a large cabinet clock, and in the other a
high spinning-wheel, used by grandmamma in ancient times; and which was
always kept in the same corner from a feeling of respect, although
nobody ever used it. And, as we are come on matrimonial speculations, I
may inform you, gracious reader, that the lower part of the
chiffonnière contains real old silver-plate for forty-eight persons;
and that the large cabinet is filled with the finest table-linen, among
which is still preserved that which grandmamma had spun with her own
hands. And now we shall proceed into the next room. This had been
fitted up with the newest furniture by Uncle Gabor as a surprise on one
of his daughter's birthdays, and was filled with comfortable
arm-chairs, spring sofas, and elegant work-tables. There was a grand
pianoforte too, and a glass chiffonnière, in which all her little
birthday and holiday gifts were arranged. The rich worsted-work carpet
was an example of the young lady's personal industry, for, besides
keeping the house in perfect order, she found time for various other
female employments. A pretty bookcase was filled with choice books,
selected by her father, while on her little embroidery table lay the
Athenæum and the Regelo, with extracts from the latest Hungarian
[Footnote 9: Regelotitle of a literary magazine.]
Lina's sleeping apartment opened from this room; surprising neatness
and order reigned in every part of the little sanctuary; and the
snow-white curtains of the bed and windows pleasantly contrasted with
the dark, polished floor. The airy windows opened on the garden, from
whence the large harvest roses peeped in. A pretty brass cage, with a
canary bird, hung on the wall; and whenever its mistress appeared, the
little tenant would sing as if its small heart were going to burst.
Beyond this room was an ante-chamber which opened into the old
gentleman's apartment, which we will not disturb, as he is still
In the opposite wing of the building were the guests' chambers, the
kitchen, servants' rooms, and store-rooms; and beyond these was a
pavilion, provided with comfortable seats, in the centre of which a
fountain played; and here the host was wont to sit and smoke with his
guests, sheltered equally from sun or rain.
The court-yard was already full of business and activity; the
reapers preparing to set out, the old gray-headed labourer leading his
oxen with their decorated horns to the well; the footman was standing
at the door of the out-house polishing his master's silver-spurred
boots, so that he might have shaved in them. A comfortable odour of
soup proceeded from the open kitchen-door, and in a few minutes, our
little lady herself stepped across the corridor, and appeared in the
court to distribute bread and brandy to the reapers. Her cheeks were
flushed, for she had just come from the fire, and a neat white
handkerchief was arranged round her head. For the young girls, who were
as yet innocent of the virtues of brandy, she had prepared a good warm
soup, that they might not go hungry to their work. It was not with any
idea of parsimony, but rather to see that each person had sufficient,
that she came out herself; and she was never contented till every
person had partaken of her gifts. Having wished their young mistress a
hearty Aldja Isten (God bless you), the reapers then set out in
the greatest good humour, the young lads and lasses singing and
jesting, and the elders walking soberly together.
Lina still lingered a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air, and listen
to the tinkling bells of the oxen as they disappeared, and then she
called her flock of poultry, which had collected round the millstone
where the labourers had breakfasted, and distributed their portions
also; after which, she returned to the kitchen to superintend the
roasting of the coffee for her father's breakfast; for when she left it
to the servants, they were sure either to roast it unmercifully, or
burn it, or do something else which gave it an unpleasant taste.
Covered fireplaces were not yet known in those dayseverything was
cooked on the flames or hot embers, and consequently the proper
management of the fire was then a source of much greater trouble to
cooks, who had to guard against smoking, burning, or singeing their
dishes; and cooking was at that period a far more difficult business
than in these more enlightened times.
Meanwhile, the footman had covered the table, and the old gentleman,
being awakened by the rattling of cups and spoons, soon made his
appearance in complete attire, with his polished silver-spurred boots,
and his fur dolmany thrown across his shoulders; his thick gray hair
was uncovered, and a pipe, quite full, in his mouth. The footman wished
him a happy good morning, while three huge greyhounds sprang from
under the table to meet him. Having patted and caressed them all, Uncle
Gabor walked into the kitchen to light his pipe, well knowing that he
should find his daughter there. Linka's hands were full, and, as her
father entered, she exclaimed, in the sweetest voice imaginable, Good
morning, dearest father; just hold out your hand here one instant, dear
For what? exclaimed the old gentleman, holding out his hand at the
It was just that Lina might stoop down and kiss it, for both her
hands were occupied.
The old gentleman patted his daughter's face, and then, taking a
bride's eye (a bright-burning ember) between his fingers from the fire,
he lit his pipe and stood watching Lina's operations. When breakfast
was ready, Lina prepared her father's coffee; she knew exactly how
black and how sweet to make it, and the old gentleman was so spoilt in
this respect, that he could never drink coffee except at home.
We have now seen the little lady at her various occupations, but we
have still to see her when she scolds, for this is infallibly requisite
in good housekeeping, and to overlook faults is in itself the greatest
fault; but the question is, how to scold that your servants may neither
fear nor laugh at you; and Lina could scold both gracefully and
agreeablyindeed the manner in which it was done was generally the
means of establishing good humour.
While she was sipping her coffee, out of a cup not much larger than
a nut-shell, all at once she heard a noise of barking and running in
the kitchen, as if some person was hunting her little greyhound.
She immediately jumped up, and ran into the kitchen. Who is teasing
my little dog? she asked, in a voice of dove-like anger.
The servants all laughed, and the footman, trying to compose his
features, replied, It was Feeske, who was leaping up on the
Well, and must you strike the poor dog for that!he feels it just
as much as you would.
Nobody beat him, Miss; only he put his head into the milk-ewer, and
could not get it out again.
Yes, because you are all so disorderly.Come here, little Feeske!
You should not have left the milk-ewer on the fireplacecome here, my
poor little dog; did these bad people hurt you?
She was obliged to break the ewer to free the little dog's head.
Sure it's the pretty ewer that's to be pitied, said one of the
Well, I would not let the dog suffer for the sake of a ewer; and
then she returned to her father with a beaming countenance. Have I not
scolded them all well!
Towards the end of breakfast, the footman entered with the letters
and newspapers, which the messenger brought weekly from town.
Uncle Gabor opened the Jelenkor newspaper, and followed Espartero
and Zummalacarreguy with great attention, while Linka glanced over the
peaceful columns of the Regelofor it was only in the evening that she
had time to read it through. As she opened the last page, her eyes fell
on a sonnet, entitled, To Lina Bssy. She started as if she had
looked into a book of incantations, and closed the paper so suddenly,
that the old gentleman, who was just standing before the cannons of a
naval engagement, cried out, What's the matter, my child?
Nothing at all, papa, replied Linka, changing colour, only the
paper nearly fell out of my hand.
So far was true. Uncle Gabor hastened back to the engagement, lest
anything should have taken place in the mean time.
Lina folded the paper quite small, and thrust it into the pocket of
her apron; then, taking up her watering-pot, she glided noiselessly out
of the room, and ran into the garden. She was determined not to read
the paper. She would either burn it, or put it away where nobody should
find it. With this firm intention, she began to water her carnations
and violets, all the time turning in her mind where she could most
conveniently hide the sonnetfor, after all, it would be very
hard-hearted to burn it.
At last she remembered the glass-house, and hastened thither with
the intention of putting the paper under one of the great cactus pots.
She looked round on entering, to see that she was quite alone.
Loneliness is the godmother of every weakness, and when she took the
paper out of her pocket she could not withstand the temptation of
looking once more into itnobody would see if she blushedand, with
trembling hands, as if she were committing something very scandalous,
she unfolded the paper, and read with a beating heart the lines
addressed to her.
The verses were of that kind which our young literature produced
about twenty years agofor we have always had a young
literature, which never attained maturitywhose constrained
inspirations, insipid taste, and high-sounding problems, had at least
this one advantage, that, possessing no feeling at all, they were
incapable of exciting any. Lina, blushing deeply, was forced to
recognise herself in the rosebud whose perfume is intoxicating bliss;
as Heaven's loveliest angel, the night of whose glossy ringlets might
form a pall beneath which it were ecstasy to expire, while the sunny
radiance of her dark eyes would wake to life again. The sonnet was
signed, Kalman Ss.
Lina knew the youth. She had frequently met him in Sz, at the
county meetings, and having read the lines, she did not think them so
very dreadful after all, except of course in a poetical point of view.
As she was still holding the open paper in her hand, a voice called
from the garden door, Miss Lina!
Starting up, she once more thrust the paper into the pocket of her
apron, and, turning very pale, ran to the door.
Guests have arrived, Miss Lina! make haste home, said the servant,
who had been sent for her.
* * * * *
An ancestral conveyance, with three unhappy horses, was standing at
Our readers will guess to whom it belonged.
Lina took the handkerchief from her head, smoothed her hair with her
hands, and hastened into the room, where numerous voices were to be
heard all talking together with exclamations of joy.
It was just themselves, dear reader; the good-natured country
gentleman, the dictatorial lady, our nephew Sandor, and his amiable
little brother, Peterke.
They had passed the night in the neighbouring village, for a variety
of excellent reasons; of which the principal were, first, that the
horses might rest, so as to be able to gallop into Uncle Gabor's court
next morning; and, secondly, that the family might equip en gala
for the occasion.
The worthy dame wore a large cap decorated with rainbow-coloured
ribbons, the border of which encompassed her face, like the portrait of
the sun in an almanac. Her dress, of bright-green silk, was short
enough to show the embroidered petticoat beneath; a large bronze buckle
secured her waist-band almost under her arms, and the tout ensemble
was relieved by a silver-coloured shawl with crimson flowers, thrown
negligently over her shoulders.
Uncle Menyhert was shaved, and his hair brushed up smartly; his
shirt-collar would fain have stood upright, but not having quite enough
of starch for that, was obliged to be satisfied with the good
intention; his waistcoat had been white piquet, but was now somewhat
yellow. A huge watch betrayed itself in his side-pocket, partly by its
size, partly by its ticking, which seemed to take part in every
conversation, and was worn round his neck by a thick silk cord
resembling a sword-belt. Instead of the green attila, he now wore a
chocolate-coloured coat, whose long narrow tails nearly reached the
ground, and his light Hungarian hose were exchanged for pantaloons of
yellow angine, very wide above and narrow below. All this was crowned
by a long cylinder hat, which was now placed on the table for universal
Our nephew Sandor wore his Juratus attila, with a vest of
cherry-coloured velvet. It was clear he felt himself a different man in
the attila to what he had been in his bonjour. The latter completely
cast him down, humiliated, and put him to shame; the attila inspired
him with confidence and courage.
He now neither stood behind the stove nor kissed the footman's hand;
in short, he had become quite superior to himself, and jested with
everybody. This is characteristic of his age: when a youth of that time
of life has an inferior coat, he will be sure to get out of your way,
to avoid saluting you; whereas if he happens to be satisfied with his
appearance, he will cross you on every occasion, and expect you to
Even the cadet had undergone a change. He had been washed and
combed, and boxed into submission. Indeed, at the last station he had
undergone a severe chastisement, to prevent any misbehaviour at Uncle
Berkessy's; and having cried the whole way thither, he was now
tolerably quiet and subdued.
As Lina entered, Aunt Zsuzsi rose, and, running across the room,
threw her arms round her neck, to the utter derangement of cap and
frill, and, with a face beaming with triumph, she led forward the
blushing girl, and introduced her to the other members of her family.
Well, you rascal! she exclaimed, turning to Sandor with motherly
pride, have we not chosen a fine girl for you, eh? You do not deserve
her, I can tell you!
Our nephew looked at Lina with a rueful smile, as if he had expected
something far prettier; but it may have been the extreme tightness of
his boots which made it an unpleasant gymnastic exercise to rise from
This cordial introduction at first surprised Linka, and, with a
modest blush, she took refuge beside her father, as if soliciting his
protection against such an unexpected attack. The old gentleman,
observing her embarrassment, put his arm playfully round her. No! you
shall not carry off my little Linka so easily, my dear niece! he
Ah, but we shall indeed, replied Aunt Zsuzsi, or else we shall
leave Sandor with you.
That's right! with all my heart, I shall be delighted if you will
leave both the boys with me. They shall be my sons.
At these words, little Peterke, in great alarm, stationed himself
between his father's knees, and began crying out, I will not be that
bacsi's sontake me home, I will stay with tate (daddy).
Uncle Gabor burst into one of his fearful laughs, while papa lifted
up the little urchin, and placed him beside his mother. Hang on there,
my brave boy.
Never mind, said Aunt Zsuzsi, when we take him to be married, I
daresay he will not cry at being left with a pretty girl. If my uncle
had but one little girl more for him!
Hush, wife! interrupted Menyhert, feeling himself called upon to
say something wise; don't you see who you are speaking before? Here is
a young innocent girl, who blushes at the very name of marriage; we
must not mention these things before the girls, till it comes to their
turn. I must say, I think it is a most excellent custom of the Turks
not allowing the bride to see her bridegroom
But at that instant Menyhert, happening to glance towards his wife's
nose, perceived in its evolutions such marked symptoms of displeasure,
that he began to stammer, forgot what he had been saying, and finally
broke down entirely.
Shall we go and look at the stud? said Uncle Gabor.
With all my heart, replied Menyhert, glad to change the subject,
and speculating on the handsome curricle and four which Uncle Gabor
would give his daughter on her marriage.
Meanwhile, I shall go and take a look at the garden, said Aunt
And gather pretty flowers, exclaimed Peterke, springing up.
No, no, you little fool, said dear mamma, you must not touch the
flowers; but you may catch as many butterflies and beetles as you
Sandor seemed undecided whether he should go and look at the horses,
or undertake to gather butterflies and beetles too; and Lina waited to
see what her father would say, when the prudential Aunt Zsuzsi
interposed: We will leave the young people together; let them amuse
themselves speaking, and get acquainted: such innocent intercourse
should never be hindered. Come away, fathers.
It was useless to oppose Aunt Zsuzsi's plans, and so the parental
society went out together, leaving the young people to get acquainted;
and the latter, seeing there was nothing else to be done, resigned
themselves to the innocent intercourse.
Linka, having recovered her presence of mind, sat quietly down to
her embroidery-table in the window; while Sandor drew himself up, and
began admiring a large oil-painting of a pretty shepherdess on the wall
opposite, the frame of which seemed to attract his particular notice.
You are thinking, said Lina, to begin the conversation, that that
portrait is very like me, are you not?
Like you? said Sandor; ohoho! what an idea!
It has much more colour than I have.
Oh! much more.
And is much taller than I am.
Oh! much taller.
Linka began to think that she had at last met some person who was
perfectly sincere. I do not know, she continued, why that painter
should have made me prettier than I am.
Sandor perceived that he had been giving very stupid answers, and
hastened to repair his fault. That is to say, Miss Lina, the portrait
is not prettier than you are; on the contrary, it is uglier, for one
side of the face is larger than the other.
Lina, perceiving that the young gentleman did not understand
painting or perspective, tried another theme.
You have lived in Pesth, and are no doubt acquainted with some of
the poets there?
O yes; indeed, there were several students among us who were
terrible spendthrifts, but I never spent much myself; six florins a
month were sufficient for me.
[Footnote 10: Spendthrift, In Hungarian kolto, means also
a poet, as the verb kolteni signifies to poetise, or to
Linka laughed heartily at what she supposed to be a pun of Sandor's.
Oh! I did not mean that kind of kolto, she exclaimed, but
Ah, indeed! replied Sandor, looking vacantly out of the window; I
did not see any such in Pesth.
But you have read their works? for instance, Vorosmarty.
O yes, certainly; that was what Kisfaludy wrote, was it not?
Ah no! Vorosmarty himself was the author.
Aha! I know now: it was he who wrote Kisfaludy.
How you are quizzing me! You cannot make me believe that you do not
know the Magyar poets.
Umph! singular! Well, if I do not know one, I know another; I am
very fond of poetry, and I can repeat some verses by heart.
Pretty ones? Perhaps you will write a few in my album; who are they
Well, the prettiest are by Vad Janos.
Vad Janos! and who is Vad Janos?
Ah, now! you see you do not know him, although he was poetical
And has he published many works?
Why, I believe so. That beautiful poem called 'Spring;' then his
'Ode to a Sausage'that's a capital thing; and then the 'Maize King's
complaint against the Trailing Bean'ah, that is superb!
And where are they all published? asked Linka humbly.
Why, in the Hippocrene, replied Sandor confidently.
And what is that? asked Lina again, with pious awe.
It is the name of a newspaper.
I have never heard of it, sighed the poor girl. And where does it
Why, in Koros.
And who is the editor?
The students write it themselves, whoever has the best hand;
and then we take it about to all the pretty girls to readthat is, I
never brought it to anybody, said Sandor, hastening to justify
himself, lest he might be suspected of visiting pretty girls.
[Footnote 11: This is really done in the smaller towns.]
How many are there who never learn anything after they leave school,
and grow old with the same ideas they brought from their classes! I had
a schoolfellow about fourteen years ago, who could tell a pleasant
anecdote pretty well. I met him again this year; we had only exchanged
a few words, when he began the old anecdote.
While the two old gentlemen were looking at the stud, Aunt Zsuzsi
had stepped into the gardennot exactly to look at the flowers, but to
find out what sort of things Lina kept for the kitchen use; while
Peterke ran up and down the beds, looking for butterflies and beetles.
In the midst of his career, he happened to upset one of the bee-hives;
and the bees consequently stung him so furiously, that his whole face
was swelled like a bladder, and the eyes almost entirely disappeared.
On hearing his cries, mamma ran up, and taking him by the hand, led him
into the house. On any other occasion, he would have been severely
punished, besides having been stung; but here everybody endeavoured to
be sweet-tempered, as if the whole family were made of milk and butter.
This misfortune put an end to the innocent intercourse, and Linka
ran away to get something for the dear boy's face. Each person proposed
a different remedycold and hot applications, oil, brandy, &c. &c. In
vain; the swelling still continued, and there was nothing for it but to
go to bed.
Linka then went to superintend her kitchen duties, glad to have a
few minutes to herself. She had not been long away, however, when
sounds of wheels were heard again driving up to the door; but Linka
paid no attention to the noiseshe was too much occupied with the
arrangement of her dishes. This did not prevent the inquisitive
servants from running to the window to see who had arrived.
Oh, Miss Lina, cried one, what a beautiful calèche! and such a
smart coachman!not like that Matyi. See what beautiful linen
[Footnote 12: In summer, the coachman's dress is a coloured vest
over a white linen garment with wide sleeves embroidered round the neck
and shoulders; also wide linen drawers with fringes, and a broad hat
decorated with feathers.]
Oh, Miss Linka! cried another, see what a handsome young cavalier
has just got down off the box! and now he is helping out a fine lady
and a little rosy girl. That is a youth for a bridegroom, Miss Lina.
But Miss Lina was very angry. What are you all chattering about?
she exclaimed; you had far better attend to your dishes.
They had scarcely turned from the window, when another sound excited
their curiosity. The galloping of a horse was heard in the court; and
presently afterwards, a voice, talking in an affected tone through the
nose, addressed the old gentleman, who had come to the door to receive
Permit me to introduce myself as Kalman Sos, said the horseman,
come to pay my respects
As Linka heard these words, she threw the egg-shells into the dish
instead of the yolk, and snatching the Regelo from her pocket, without
further reflection, she threw it into the fire.
What have you done, Miss Linka? exclaimed the portly cook; all
your burnt paper has got into my dishes.
And to put the comble to her distress, the old gentleman
entered, his face beaming with pleasure, and, going maliciously up to
his daughter, he looked in her face, and smiled knowingly without
saying a word, while the poor girl only wished that the floor might
open by some miracle and permit her to sink into the cellar.
Do you want anything, dearest papa? she ventured at last to ask.
I do not want you to stay in the kitchen!
And why not, dear father?
Because you will be sure to salt everything to-day.
[Footnote 13: Sos, salt salted.]
Poor Linka! if she could have blushed still more deeply she would
have done so, for she understood her father's meaning too well; and,
moreover, the cook increased her embarrassment, by adding, Indeed,
sir, you will do well to carry off the young lady, for she is not at
all like herself, poor thing! and giving us much unnecessary trouble;
only a few minutes ago, she put the egg-shells into the pudding instead
of the yolk; and then she burnt
Lina tried to silence the cook, who, however, only talked the
louderso she was compelled at last to yield; and, taking her father's
arm, she made up her mind with a sigh to the great sacrifice of leaving
the kitchen and going to her guests. And what a place of refuge the
poor girl had often found there on such occasions!
Meanwhile the guests were assembled in the sitting-room. On one side
of the sofa sat Aunt Zsuzsi, endeavouring with great vehemence, and
frequent application of her finger to the side of her nose, to explain
something in an under tone to a mild lady, in whom we recognise Mrs.
Tallyai, who was sitting beside her listening patiently to her tales.
Our nephew Sandor sat at the table, evidently a good deal put out by
seeing so many strangers; although it never crossed his imagination
that he had two rivals among them.
His father sat beside him, administering wise counsel about various
matters, such as how to behave when he was addressed, how to sit at
table and use his knife and fork, not to put his nail into the
salt-cellar instead of the point of his knife, or to wipe his mouth
with the table-cloth, or drink the water out of the finger-glass. With
these and such-like salutary precepts did good Mr. Menyhert Gulyasi
endeavour to enlighten his son, till the poor youth lost all the little
courage with which his attila had inspired him.
Opposite Sandor sat Karely Tallyaia handsome, manly youth, in
whose gay countenance and easy manners no holiday restraint was to be
seen. He was carrying on a jesting conversation with his sister, the
little mischievous Siza, whose roguish eyes were ever and anon glancing
at the opposite side of the table, while she constantly discovered
something to arrange in her brother's neckerchief or ruffles, or an
atom of down to pick off his coat, all of which she did with an air of
mysterious prudery, as if nobody but ourselves was to remark it.
Last, though not least in his own opinion, stood Kalman the poet,
apart from the rest, with his arms folded and his back against an
arm-chair, his countenance vainly endeavouring to express unutterable
sadness. Such expressions have great effect on young girlsthe pale,
moonlight face; the secret sigh; the sad smile when others laugh
heartily; the retirement to a corner where he can be seen by everybody,
when others are amusing and enjoying themselves; the gentle cough now
and thenand if asked why, the laying of the hand with pensive
calmness on the breast, the speaking of approaching autumn, of falling
leaves, and of sweet sleep among those leaves; remarking that the sound
of coughing is like knocking at the gate of another world, and
such-like poetic similes. All this is certain of success if directed
skilfully against a young and inexperienced heart.
Thus the three rival parties were arranged to begin the attack. The
family of Gulyasi were no doubt the strongest; they claimed the old
gentleman's earlier friendship and former promise, besides which, his
own speculations too allotted them the first place.
Kalman considered himself quite dangerous enough to enter the lists
in single combat, and without a second, having already opened the
attack by pouring forth his secret vows in verse; while the least
favourable place fell certainly to Karely. With an honourable heart,
and lips that despised flattery, he had also the misfortune to possess
a simple-hearted mother, who, instead of clothing her son in every
virtue, even exposed his faults, declaring that he was a sad, wild
youth, who spent a great deal of money, besides various other
misdemeanours which she spoke of in the sincerity of her heart, so that
poor Karely might have hung the basket on his arm beforehand, as
there was every chance of his receiving it.
[Footnote 14: It was an old custom to present a basket as a mark of
refusal to the rejected suitor.]
* * * * *
Uncle Gabor entered the room with Lina on his arm, and led her up to
Mrs. Tallyai. The young girl kissed her hand, and gracefully saluted
the rest of the party. Then the two ladies placed her between them on
the sofa, and it was really amusing to see how Aunt Zsuzsi contrived to
occupy her whole attention, overwhelming her with praises, flattery,
and ill-timed questions, while Mrs. Tallyai had not an opportunity of
putting in a single word.
What a pretty, dear girl! quite a child still, and yet such a good
housewife. I saw your garden, quite an examplesuch cauliflowers! you
must know they are my favourite vegetable. I have looked at your
preserves, and they do the greatest credit to these pretty little white
hands; but I must teach you by and bye to make medlar and grape
jellywhen we are at Makkifalva, you know. You never tasted anything
betterSandor is so fond of it! indeed he is fond of all sweets, quite
his father's son; but he had not hitherto seen the sweetest of all
sweets!Come, you must not blush so, you naughty girl, though I must
confess it is most becoming.
The poor girl was actually sitting on thorns during the whole of
this conversation, till, fortunately, Sizike interrupted it by running
over and throwing her arms round her neck, which gave Lina an
opportunity of withdrawing with her young companion into an adjoining
The two girls did not return till they were summoned to dinner, and
then they were already per tu. Friendship is very quickly formed
between girls, and, notwithstanding the difference of agefor Siza was
yet a childa holy alliance had been concluded in a few minutes, and
it was evident that Lina looked more favourably on Karely than on
Sandor, although Kalman still remained the most dangerous in her
regard, and she never ventured to look except by stealth at the hero of
the lines, conscious that his eyes were always fixed upon her.
At dinner, the two matrons sat at the head of the table, and Uncle
Gabor at the foot, with the two girls at each side of him; Karely sat
beside Linka, and Sandor opposite him, beside Siza. The poet sat beside
Aunt Zsuzsi, and Menyhert beside Mrs. Tallyai. Soup was served, and the
spoon being an innocent weapon, nothing particular took place during
its requisition, except that Sandor, observing Kalman hold his spoon
between his first finger and thumb, tried to imitate him, and at the
first experiment emptied the soup over his coat. Afterwards, when the
knives and forks came into requisition, and the first glass of wine
began to inspire courage, Menyhert related his own heroic deeds of
1809a period which Berkessy, on the other hand, did not exactly wish
to recall. Kalman began eating with his left hand, and Sandor, desirous
of following his example, pitched the meat off his fork into his
neighbour's lap. Aunt Zsuzsi then talked of the want of principle in
the young men of the capital, on which Kalman asked her if she had seen
Janesi Parlagi; and then again incurred her wrath by pouring
out a glass of water backwards, on which the good lady declared that
the next time he did so, she would not drink it.
[Footnote 15: Janesi Parlagi, a popular play. The question
was asked in derision of the country bumpkin.]
Sandor having been desired by his mother not to refuse anything,
lest it might offend the young lady of the house, ate and drank of
everything that came in his way. The good Eger wine seemed only to
renew his vigour in attacking the dishes, inspiring him at the same
time with as much confidence as if he were sitting among his Juratus
colleagues, opposite the golden flask. He laughed and jested, stumbled
into everybody's conversation, played on the bottles and glasses, and
threw about balls of bread. At last, in the height of his merriment, he
stretched his limbs under the table, and, having reached a little foot
opposite, which he took for Lina's, began to press it gently with his
own. The foot happened, however, to be Karely's, who, being deeply
engaged in conversation with his neighbour, allowed this tender
quiproquo to go on unnoticed.
Towards the end of dinner, when hearts and mouths were ever opening
wider, that amiable confusion began in which everybody speaks at once,
and nobody can hear himself, though he understands his neighbour. As
one anecdote gave rise to another, the company laughed till the tears
ran down their cheeks; and the ladies entreated the gentlemen not to
make them laugh more, as they were already quite fatigued; while the
young people laughed too, pretending to join in the joke, although it
was something quite different they were laughing about. Reader, would
you understand their mirth? You must be young, and in love.
Kalman the poet alone maintained a Parnassus repose of feature. His
countenance was never discomposed by a smile, while his eyes were
constantly fixed on the young lady of the house, or straight before
himnot on Uncle Menyhert, but beyond him on the opposite wall, on
which a large mirror was suspended. This mirror seemed to divide his
attention with Lina; and to judge by his countenance, he was perfectly
satisfied with the appearance reflected withinwatching every motion
of his hands as he ate his dinner, or picked his teeth.
Nobody seemed to observe him excepting little Sizike, whose
mischievous eyes nothing escaped. Her naïve ideas kept the old
gentleman in constant mirth; and once or twice he was very nearly
breaking out into one of his terrible explosions, when, pointing to
Sandor, who was stretching his foot under the table, she whispered:
See, bacsi, the student is disappearing! in allusion to one of his
own stories of a student who disappeared under the table.
The general gaiety had reached its climax, when Kalman rose from his
seat, and, drawing his fingers through his hair, filled his glass, and
coughed slightly, to signify to the company that he was about to speak.
The noise ceased; each person hushed his neighbour, and endeavoured
to assume a befitting length of countenance. The poet gazed around him
for a few moments, and then, raising his glass, began:
There is a sea, beneath which a lovely pearl lies concealed. . . .
See, bacsi, whispered Sizike in Uncle Gabor's ear, how Kalman
looks at himself in the glass!
Uncle Gabor glanced at the poet, whose eyes were fixed intently on
the mirror with the most extraordinary self-complacency, totally
unconscious of the mirth he excited.
This pearl, he continued, with great pathos, is dearer than
Cleopatra's far-famed pearl, purer than those in the Brazilian
emperor's diadem! To win this gem, it were small sacrifice to descend
into the depths of the ocean: to die for it were bliss! . . . .
See, bacsi, how he offers himself the glass in the mirror,
whispered Sizike again.
Uncle Gabor seemed ready to burst, like an over-heated steam-boiler.
His vast chest rose and fell, his face grew purple, he clenched his
Karely, meanwhile, observing that Sandor was pressing his foot very
affectionately, and not wishing to leave the kindly intention
unresponded to, felt for Sandor's corn, and trod upon it with all his
Yai! roared Sandor in the midst of the pearly simile, giving the
bottle before him such a push, that the red wine flowed to the opposite
end of the table.
This was all that was wanting for Uncle Gabor. The restrained
laughter now broke out in all its fury; he threw himself back in his
chair, and struck the table till all the bottles danced. The young
people laughed too; and the ladies were so startled at the wine which
was running towards them, that they retreated from the table. Kalman
alone maintained a profound gravity, waiting with dignified mien till
the noise had subsided, to continue his speech; but in vain. Three
times he made an attempt to recommence; but no sooner did Uncle Gabor
look at him, or hear his voice, than the explosion was renewed, which
he was utterly incapable of restraining.
Kalman was obliged to sit down at last without finishing his speech.
The old gentleman was evidently annoyed, but it could not be helped; if
Kalman had spoken from the pulpit, he could not have kept his gravity.
To relieve the general embarrassment, Karely took up a glass and added
May the pretty pearl of which our friend Kalman speaks long be an
ornament amongst us, more especially as it does not grow on a cold
shell, but adorns the bosom of a true-hearted son of Hungary, who,
instead of salt sea-water, offers all explorers plenty of good Turkish
[Footnote 16: The Eger wine is so called, from the many battles
Eljen! eljen! cried the whole party: even Uncle Gabor heartily
clapped his hands in approval. Kalman alone could not forgive Karely,
for having followed up the effusion of his brilliant genius with such
commonplace wit. But it is vain attempting to say wise things after
dinner, and still more vain to expect people to listen to them.
As soon as the company rose from table, Uncle Berkessy invited his
guests to drive out in his grounds with him; and all having readily
accepted, orders were given to the coachmen from each party.
Menyhert went into the stables, to consult with Matyi as to the
possibility of his horses undertaking the drive; and the result being
unfavourable, it was agreed, on the promise of a pint of wine Matyi
should receive on their return, that the latter was to pretend to be
unfit to drive.
Meanwhile the other carriages had driven out, and the ladies were
preparing to step in. Kalman brought forward his steed, with its tail
cropped à l'Anglaise, and all were ready, when Menyhert appeared
coming out of the stables in great wrath.
What the tartar are we to do? my coachman is so drunk that it is
impossible he can drive us. I am shocked to think that this should have
taken place here, but I shall turn him off as soon as ever we go home.
Don't annoy yourself, my good friend, exclaimed Berkessy, there's
plenty of room, and we can arrange so as to take you all in. Your lady
will sit beside Mrs. Tallyai; Karely likes driving at all events, and
the girls will not object to having a cavalier with them.
Kalman had just got one foot in the stirrup, when hearing that there
was a place in the carriage beside Lina, he turned suddenly to Sandor,
who was standing beside him admiring the horse, and asked, with amiable
condescension, if he liked riding.
That I do, replied Sandor grinning; but I have no horse.
Would you like to ride mine?
Really! may I indeed?
Most welcome; my back is already tired with riding all the morning,
and I can get a place beside one of the coachmen.
It was not necessary to repeat the offer; Sandor put one foot into
the stirrup, and, after dancing about a considerable time on the point
of the other, succeeded in placing himself in the saddle. The rest of
the party had arranged themselves according to Uncle Gabor's
directions, and Kalman was fortunate enough to obtain a place in
Berkessy's carriage opposite the two girls.
It was only now the company perceived that Sandor had mounted
Kalman's horse, on which he made rather a remarkable appearancehis
legs being very long, and the stirrups drawn up very short,
consequently obliging his knees almost to meet round the horse's neck.
Unfortunately, this horse had the bad habit of rearing whenever he
felt a stranger on his back; and he now began by throwing up his head
with a strange, drawn-out neigh, backing by degrees, and finally
Aunt Zsuzsi now started from her seat. Sandor! she cried, you
fool! get off that horse directly; you will break your neck.
It would appear unnecessary telling a man to get off a horse whose
intention it is to give his rider all possible assistance in
dismounting. But Sandor neither heard nor saw; and if we apply the term
of all ear to an attentive listener, we may perhaps affirm of Sandor
that he was all horse.
The steed, finding that Sandor did not fall off as he intended,
neighed once more, and pricking up his ears, made a start for the gate,
and then set off full gallop across the garden and over the meadow,
bearing his unhappy rider with him, who in despair let go the bridle,
and with both hands held fast by the saddle before and behind.
My son, my son! he will be killed! shrieked Aunt Zsuzsi, wringing
her hands; will nobody save him?
Oh, never fear, said her worthy husband; he is safe enough,
depend upon it, and a throw or two won't break his neck. Did you not
see that he spurred the horse purposely? Let us go on, he will soon
Whereupon the whips cracked, and the carriages proceeded at a quick
pace along the road; Aunt Zsuzsi calling to every person she met, to
ask if they had seen her sonnobody hearing her, of course, owing to
the noise of the carriages.
Having arrived at Uncle Berkessy's farm, where the harvest was going
on, they turned into a beautiful avenue planted on each side with
trees; here and there the wheat and barley were in stacks, the maize
was still ripening luxuriously, and the golden melon and citronil
peeping out among the stubble. But neither corn nor melons had any
charms for Aunt Zsuzsishe could only think of her lost son; till Mrs.
Tallyai having suggested the probability of Sandor's having returned
home, the good lady became tolerably calm, and was able to estimate the
value of each plot of melons, and bushel of corn.
Having amused themselves some time watching the reapers, the party
drove home again. Aunt Zsuzsi's first word was to inquire for Sandor;
but nobody knew anything about him.
The good lady then gave vent to her lamentations. I am undone! she
exclaimed, my son Sandor is lost for ever! One has been nearly stung
to death by bees, and now the other is killed by a mad horse. Oh! why
did we ever come here at all?But it is all your fault, you old fool,
she continued, turning to her husband; why did you want to marry your
son so young? Now he is gone for ever, and you may go after him
yourself, with your ass of a coachman. And you, sir, she added,
turning her wrath on Kalman, how dared you let him mount your
confounded horse? where is he now, I ask you?where is my son Sandor?
And where is my horse? exclaimed the poet, not less alarmed at the
idea of Sandor's having carried off his horse, than the good lady at
the horse's having carried off her son Sandor.
Oh, heavens! how am I to go home without my son? said Aunt Zsuzsi,
bursting into tears.
And how the tartar am I to get home without my horse? said the
sentimental poet, forgetting himself.
Not content with blaming her husband and Kalman, Aunt Zsuzsi
included the whole family in her wrath: the girls because they had not
taken Sandor with them, and Uncle Berkessy for having allowed him to
drink so much wine, as otherwise he never would have dared to mount the
horse; and finally, she broke out in invectives against the whole party
for standing with their mouths open, instead of running to look for her
At last Menyhert's patience was exhausted: What are you yammering
about? he exclaimed; nobody made this fuss about me when I went to
the elections at Raab, when several gentleman were shot there! Never
fear! bad money is not so easily lost; depend upon it, he will come
back again. They don't steal people in this country, and they won't
begin with Sandor; and if the rascal does not return soon, we shall
have him advertised.
These cruel words fell with indescribable bitterness on Aunt
Zsuzsi's sensitive heart. That a father should speak thus of his lost
son! She had no words to reply; but, rushing into the room where
Peterke was lying eating cake, she threw herself on her only remaining
son, and began sobbing bitterly, on which Peterke turned the cake out
of his mouth and began roaring too.
Uncle Berkessy, much annoyed at the good lady's distress, sent
messengers in every direction, on foot and on horseback, to search for
the lost youth.
Meantime our readers may have no objection to follow too, and see
what has become of him.
Having crossed the garden, the steed went full speed across the
fields, and out into the highroad, where he continued in full gallop,
Sandor having surrendered himself to his fate, wondering whether he
should be carried off to Ukrania, as Mazeppa had been before him.
Now and then he ventured to look hastily round, and saw the place
they had left always at a greater distance, till at last it disappeared
entirely, and only the tower of the village church was to be seen;
finally, that too disappeared, and he began to see the towers of some
unknown town rising out of the horizon before him.
Now and then he called to the people he met on the road to catch the
horse, but they all understood that they were to keep out of the way,
taking it for granted that he was riding for a bet, or else that he was
a messenger sent for a doctor or fire-engines.
* * * * *
It was six days since the pretty widow had sent Uncle Nanasy abroad
to make preparations for her wedding and to assemble her relations. All
her orders had been scrupulously attended to. And the estafette
whom Julia had sent to recall him having arrived half an hour too late
at each place, Uncle Nanasy returned to Swithout having seen him,
and entered his niece's apartment with a huge bandbox under his arm.
Here I am, darling!I have executed all your orders, he
exclaimed; and here are your bridal dressesthis Varga made, and is
it not splendid? And this is from Keresztessy, worthy of an empress!
And here is the dispensation in my pocketand the confections are in
that great case outsideand all our relations will be here: went about
myself, darling, and invited them allBut what's the matter? You are
not pleased with the dresses?
Julia, trembling with vexation and rage, had pushed away the box
violently, and it rolled on the floor, crushing all the finery.
Take these dresses out of my sight! she exclaimed, in a voice
choked with passion. I don't want to see themnor the dispensation,
nor confections, nor relations, nor yourself either, you facetious,
meddling, old fool!
Uncle Nanasi's eyes and mouth opened wide at this unexpected
reception; his jaws moved, as if endeavouring to articulate, though he
was utterly incapable of pronouncing a syllable.
When a man discharges all the business confided to him in the most
punctual way possible, just as he expects to receive at least a kiss in
return, and instead of it, has a box thrown at his head amid a storm of
abuse, what is he to suppose?
Nanasy bacsi was beyond supposition; and, to add to his amazement,
his fair niece had thrown herself down on the sofa, and was sobbing
At that instant the sound of horses' hoofs was heard in the court,
and Julia's maid burst into the room with a look of astonishment,
Miss!Madam!gracious lady! Master Kalman's horse!
Don't dare to admit him, cried the lady, starting passionately
from her seat.
But it is not Master Kalman, only his horse, with a strange young
Who, indeed, but the unfortunate Sandor, who had been carried across
the district to the principal town of the neighbouring county, and set
down before a strange house half dead with terror and fatigue!
Kalman had been accustomed to visit Julia every day on horseback,
and on these occasions the fair lady used to feed the horse with sugar
from her own delicate hands, so that when he passed up that street the
animal would frequently carry his master perforce into the court of
Julia's house, and now, having been six days absent, he had
consequently been six days without sugar, and, naturally enough,
finding himself unchecked, set off, and never stopped till he arrived
in the court of Julia's house, where he stood still, and began neighing
for the sugar.
This is the most natural way of explaining the psychology of the
circumstance, at least as far as we are capable of comprehending the
ideas of a horse.
Sandor tumbled off the horse's back as soon as it stopped, and
tottered towards the wall with aching and distorted limbs: presently,
he crept up to the door with great difficulty, just as Julia with her
maid had appeared on the staircase to see who was there.
Who are you?what do you want?how did you come here? were the
first questions put to the unhappy stranger.
Don't ask me anything, groaned the horseman. I am lostI am
dyingmy back is brokenput me to bed and call a surgeon. I am just
going to die!
Julia saw with real sympathy that the youth was in great suffering,
and, sending her servant immediately in search of medical and surgical
aid, she put the tortured adventurer to bed, and bestowed every
possible attention which female tenderness could suggest. At last the
arrival of the doctors relieved her as to the state of the
invalidassuring her that the young man was only saddle-sick, and that
a few hours of rest would put all to rights.
* * * * *
At Gabor Berkessy's, matters became more serious every hour. Mrs.
Gulyasi would let nobody draw breath till she had turned out the whole
household in search of her son, while she herself wandered about
distracted, asking every new comer what they had done with her son! At
last she was seized with violent cramps, and was obliged to go to bed
to tea and warming-pans.
Poor Lina and Mrs. Tallyai kept watch by her bedside, and never
closed their eyes all night; while Menyhert slumbered with a calm
conscience in the next room, snoring so loudly that they were obliged
to rouse him once in each five minutes for fear of disturbing the
At last, towards morning, she fell asleep, overcome by fatigue and
groaning, and Mrs. Tallyai also sank down on the sofa to get a few
minutes' rest, when all at once the footman was heard beating the
gentlemen's coats in the corridor.
The two girls ran out eagerly and desired him not to make such a
noise, as the ladies had only just fallen asleep.
As the footman retreated with the coats, Sizike observed something
lying on the floor, and running over, picked up an open pocket-book, on
the outside of which was printed in large golden letters, Journal,
and the initials K. S.
Who could blame severely two young girls, when the journal of a
young mannot entirely without interest in their eyeshad fallen into
their hands, that they should be unable to withstand the temptation of
peeping just a very little into it? At all events it was very natural.
The two girls ran whispering and tittering behind a pillar, and
hurriedly turned over the leaves of the mysterious book. It was full of
verses; here and there dried flowers, or a forget-me-not of plaited
hair peeped out between the leaves, which they carefully replaced, and
amused themselves with reading the verses, stifling their laughter as
they gaily snatched the book out of each other's hands. Suddenly Lina's
eyes fell on some well-known lines. She looked again; they were indeed
the very same which she had read the day before in the Regelo, with
this slight difference, that they were not addressed to herself, but to
Julia Cs, and instead of dark hair and eyes, these spoke of
forget-me-not eyes and golden hair; otherwise it was quite the
sameevery angel and charmer in its place, the same heartaches, the
same readiness to die, and promises to meet in a better world!
Lina felt herself precisely in the situation of a person who accepts
a compliment, and then perceives it was intended for another. She
hastily closed the Journal and retreated to her room, to hide the blush
of shame which covered her face, as if a hundred eyes were turned upon
her. For once in her life, a feeling of vanity had crossed her heart;
but now she was severely punished for it: all those beautiful similes
and sweet words had not been written for her at all, but only
translated from fair to dark! She was completely disenchanted.
The sun had already risen, when one of the messengers who had been
despatched on Sandor's traces returned, with the consolatory news that
he had discovered the young gentleman, and that nothing was the matter
with him; on the contrary, he was in excellent hands, under the care of
a beautiful lady, who would not let him go until he had entirely
recovered from the fatigue occasioned by his ridemeanwhile, she hoped
that his worthy parents would come and be her guests until the young
gentleman was thoroughly restored.
At this news, Aunt Zsuzsi suddenly came to herself, rose from bed,
and ordered her carriage; and without even waiting for breakfast,
thanked her host for all his kindness, hurried her husband and little
Peterke, with tied-up jaws, into the conveyance, and desired the
coachman to drive for life and death to S. The lad who had brought
the message was seated beside the coachman as a guide, having forgotten
the lady's name on his way back, but hoped to be able to find the house
Uncle Gabor shook hands cordially with Menyhert, who was already in
the coach, exclaiming gaily: But for all this our process must not
fall to the groundliquidum est debitum; and if it cannot be
arranged otherwise, we must enforce the execution.
Menyhert laughed heartily, understanding an allusion to the
The whole household accompanied the carriage to the road, where they
once more parted, and the horses set off as fast as they were able.
Uncle Gabor then returned to the house with his guests; Linka was
evidently out of spirits that morning, while Siza could scarcely
contain her joy on seeing the Gulyasis set off.
Miss Lina's sunny countenance is clouded to-day, said the poet in
a theatrical tone.
Lina, without condescending a reply, turned to Karely, with whom she
began to converse, and they entered the house together.
Kalman was thunderstruck. Why is Miss Linka so ungracious to-day?
he asked Sizike, who still remained out.
Oh! did you not hear Mr. Menyhert Gulyasi threaten her father with
Who? the old gentleman? asked Kalman, much shocked.
Siza had spoken carelessly, without an idea of being believed; but
Kalman's look did not escape her quick eyefor at twelve years old she
had more sharpness than most people have at forty. Without rectifying
the mistake, she answered gravely: Yes, certainly, old Berkessy; but
you must not speak of it to anybody.
Impossible! cried Kalman, in great agitation; he is considered a
very rich man.
Ah! there are many considered rich who are not really so, said
Sizike; and, carelessly humming a tune, she tripped into the house.
Kalman paced up and down with folded arms: he was quite confounded.
How could he imagine that a child of twelve years old should think of
making a fool of him? He might indeed have doubted had he heard it from
a grown-up person; but why should a child say such a thing, unless she
had heard it from those around her? In that case, it would be better to
return to Julia,people said ill-natured things of her, to be sure,
and she was rather volatile and capricious; but at all events she was
rich, and very pretty. It might not be so difficult, after all, to
begin again: a few well got up scenesan attempt at suicide if
necessary, and all would be right.
A horse was the only thing wantingperhaps Berkessy would lend him
one; and with this hope the poet entered Uncle Gabor's apartment.
Berkessy was sitting on a large arm-chair, and Karely was standing
Kalman paused as he approached, to consider how he should arrange
his speech so that the old gentleman might suppose, and yet not suppose
that it was no longer his intention to propose for his daughter. And
here his evil genius again placed a looking-glass before him; and again
forgetting himself, he drew up his collar, brushed up his hair, and the
Sir with which he began his speech was apparently addressed to
Uncle Gabor, who had been observing his strange attitude in the
mirror, suddenly burst into one of his uncontrollable fits of laughter,
which Kalman was obliged this time to take to himself. He grew red,
then pale again, while his lips trembled with rage.
The old gentleman suddenly checked himself, and asked in the gravest
toneIn what can I oblige you, nephew?
Sir, replied Kalman, scarcely able to articulate with fury, I
thoughtI expected to find in you a cultivated man, who despised the
superstition of the last century, which considered a poet as something
I do not consider poets ridiculous, sir, replied Berkessy gravely,
as the walls of my room and my library will prove, where you may see
the portraits and the works of our best authors; but I despise that
bastard poetry which sucks the parent stem, and grows green without
ever producing fruit. I honour and revere those great minds, uniting
brilliant genius with vast study, who fulfil their glorious career to
the glory and honour of their country; but to mistake every reed
whistle for an Æolian harp, is what I cannot do. The real poet elevates
our mind by his ideas, while those who only call themselves so because
they invent rhymes can but excite a smile; and if nature has given to
my smile a somewhat louder tone than usual, it is not my fault. Really,
my dear nephew, the properties I first mentioned are rather rare, while
the latter certainly aboundand this you must not take amiss from an
No dictionary hitherto published contains words sufficiently
expressive of all that Kalman felt at this moment. To accuse a man of
stealing a silver fork, is nothing in comparison of telling him he is a
bad poet. At last, after a few moments' silence, he began in a
dignified tone: Sir, if I did not consider that I am in your house
That need not incommode you in the least: in my house the guests
are the masters.
The insult you have offered me should be washed out with my blood,
continued Kalman (he did not yet presume to say with anybody's else).
I am not a surgeon, replied the old man, with quiet sarcasm.
Karely now stepped in between them, and taking Kalman's
armComrade, he whispered, you are playing a very ridiculous part,
in disputing thus with an old gentleman.
Why has he not a son, that I might demand satisfaction?
Take comfort, if that is all you want: I am his son, for I am going
to marry his daughter, and I am ready to give you all the satisfaction
you desire, but don't let us make a noise about it. I believe you are
going home at all events; so, if you will drive with me to S, we
can settle this affair with our friends.
Uncle Gabor did not hear what the young men were saying; and as
Karely declared that he was obliged to go to S, and would take
Kalman with him, he was quite satisfied, and ere long the two young men
drove away in the Tallyai carriage.
* * * * *
Meanwhile the Gulyasis arrived happily at S, and were received
by the fair widow with the greatest amiability, and conducted to the
chamber of the sick youth, in whom Aunt Zsuzsi recognised her lost son.
He was reposing on a divan, arrayed in a rich silk dressing-gown,
embroidered slippers, and gold-tasselled cap, formerly the property of
the fair lady's husband.
Of course, Aunt Zsuzsi remarked nothing of all this at first, she
could only see her long-lost son; and falling on his neck, she sobbed
passionately for several minutes, after which she poured forth her
thanks and compliments to the pretty widow for her son's extraordinary
preservation, and the careful attendance bestowed upon him, repeating
at least ten times overOh! if my son Sandor had such a wife, I
should be at rest as to his fateI should then be sure of having
placed him in good hands!
Julia smiled charmingly, and brought the worthy family through all
her fine apartmentsshowed them her porcelain, her silver services,
and finally her jewellery. Aunt Zsuzsi was beside herself; praised
everything to the skies, and scarcely knew what to look at first.
Meanwhile Uncle Nanasy took Menyhert up stairs into his
smoking-room, and spoke a great deal of Julia's fortune, of her various
merits, and of the brilliant alliance she would make for the first
family in the country, and of her late husband's admirable arrangement,
allowing his widow a handsome income in case of her marrying againto
all of which Menyhert listened attentively, and the hours passed
rapidly away until dinner was announced.
During dinner, the surprise and admiration of the family reached its
highest climax. They did not know which to admire mostthe meats, or
the dishes in which they were served. Little Peterke alone seemed
perfectly decided in his opinion as to the tarts, and had his own way
of proving itwhat he could not eat he thrust into his pockets, and
Julia helped him to fill his cap with sweetmeats.
Well, Peterke, said Aunt Zsuzsi after dinner, taking the dear boy
in her arms, tell me which you like best, Aunt Julia or Aunt Lina?
I don't love Aunt Lina, because she would not give me chocolate
when I asked her.
Well then, you love Aunt Julia best, don't you?
Mamma smiled, and gently patted the dear boy's cheek.
It was now the seventh day, and the report had already spread
through the whole town, that the pretty widow was to be married on that
day. Her relations began to arrive, and one calèche followed another
till the house was quite full of gaily dressed people, among which the
indefatigable Uncle Nanasy was seen receiving everybody, and looking
more mysterious than ever.
Where is the bride? and Where is the bridegroom? was in every
mouth; but, for once in his life, Nanasy bacsi answered
discreetlythat Julia was at her toilet.
Meanwhile Julia had arrayed herself in her bridal attire, in which
she really looked like a fairy queen, and was in the act of placing the
wreath on her head when the door opened, and who should enter
Julia, who was standing before the mirror and saw him enter, had
just time to check the start of astonishment which his appearance
caused, and, turning calmly round, O you bad man! she exclaimed in a
voice of gentle reproach, to have put me to such an unmerciful trial.
If I had not known you so well, I might have been quite desperate on
Then you never doubted me?
Doubted you! how could I imagine that you would forsake me, when
everybody knew we were going to be married! I must have had a very low
opinion of you indeed, had I thought for an instant that you could have
so basely betrayed a woman who loved you. Oh, no! I knew it was only a
poetical caprice on your part to prove the strength of my confidence. I
knew you would return, and so I did not even put off my guests, but
made all the preparations for the day appointed, so well did I read
Yes, Julia! you read truly, murmured Kalman, enchanted; it was
only a trial, which you have overcome, and my love will now be a
thousand times stronger than ever.
Julia turned from her mirror, and, courtesying low, with a smile of
bewitching coquetry, asked, Am I pretty?
Oh, lovely!Oh, angelic! murmured the poet, throwing himself at
At that instant Uncle Nanasy entered to announce that the reverend
gentleman had arrived for the ceremony.
Julia poured some Ess bouquet on her handkerchief, and,
taking Nanasy's arm, who stepped forward à pas de menuet, she
descended to the apartment where the guests were assembled.
The company hastened to greet the lovely bride, each according to
his own mode, and one and all seemed lost in admiration of her beauty.
At last the reverend gentleman stepped forward, and, rubbing his
hands with a business-like countenance, asked the name of the happy
Julia looked round with one of her sweetest smiles, while Kalman
hastened across all the corns in the company in his haste to join the
beautiful bride; but Julia's hand had already been placed in that of
nephew Sandor, whom she presented to the clergyman as her future
Kalman tottered towards the wall, and so completely lost his
presence of mind, that he tripped successively over three chairs into
the lap of a fat dowager lady; and then, starting up, rushed to the
nearest door, but finding it was a cupboard had to return across the
room; and when at last he found the door and got down stairs, the first
person he happened to meet being a little kitchen-maid, he addressed
her as My lady aunt! and begged her to get him a glass of water, for
he was very cold!
There was only one other person in a greater perplexity than
himself, and this was the bridegroom. When Julia led him towards the
clergyman, he stared as if he had heard sentence of death passed upon
him. The affair had been already made up between the elders, who
considered it superfluous to mention the subject to Sandor beforehand,
and Julia was too secure in the power of her charms to doubt of their
success in this undertaking.
Sandor allowed himself to be led before the table arranged for the
ceremony, and when the clergyman asked him, Do you love this
honourable lady whose hand you hold? he only stared at the worthy man,
till his father cried out, Well, do you love her? Of course you love
herhow should you not love her? on which Sandor recovering his
senses, went through the rest of the marriage formula pretty well,
though it cannot be denied that his teeth chattered not a little.
After this all went on well. The fêtes which succeeded the
ceremony removed every constraint; and I must not omit, for the
satisfaction of our readers, that the happy bridegroom even danced
after supper, and thereby managed to trip up and tumble over several of
* * * * *
Early next morning three young men were walking in the gardens
outside the town. One was Karely, and the other two his comrades, who
were to act as seconds in his encounter with Kalman.
The latter had quitted Julia's house with a greater desire of
fighting than ever, and declared in several coffeehouses that he was
determined to shed either his own blood or that of another, and that he
would not be content with sending a ball through Karely's brain alone.
In vain his friends hinted that it was imprudent to publish his
sanguinary intentions beforehand, as he might be taken up. He cared
not; they might imprison him or take his life, but they should not
touch his honour!
Karely and his friends had waited full half an hour after the time
appointed. At last Kalman's seconds arrivedalone! and, with
countenances expressive of anger and disgust, handed a letter to their
opponents. Karely opened it impatiently, and read as follows:
GENTLEMEN,Reflecting more coolly on this affair, I have come to
the conclusion that greater obligations than those at present incurred
forbid my risking a life not my own. The genius which fate has
intrusted to me is not mine alone. It belongs to my countryto
humanity in general.
There is another thing we must not lose sight of; a duel should
only take place between individuals of equal rank, and I need not
explain to you that the mind has its aristocracy as well as society.
When you have selected one of my own grade, I will gladly measure arms
with him; meanwhile I quit this ungrateful town, probably for ever, to
seek elsewhere a circle more suited to my tastes, &c. &c.
The seconds stared at one another; some laughed, others cursed, and
Karely seeing there was nothing more to be done, took leave of his
comrades, and, stepping into the carriage which was waiting for him,
drove back to Berkessy's.
About half way he met their calèche, with his mother and sister, and
old Berkessy and his daughter, who all uttered exclamations of joy on
Some friend who had heard Kalman's threats in the café
hastened that very evening to inform them of it, and they were now
driving for life and death to S, and were infinitely relieved and
rejoiced to meet Karely returning, especially when he assured them that
the affair had gone off without any bad consequence.
Berkessy proposed going home with Karely, to give the ladies more
room, and they all drove back together.
Uncle Gabor then questioned Karely as to the cause of the duel, and
having heard it was on his account, he opened his eyes in
And what right had you to demand satisfaction in my name?
That right which a son has in his father's name.
The old gentleman smiled. But you are not my son.
But might I not be?
Hm! nephew, you are certainly a fine, good-hearted lad, but they
say you are very extravagant.
Well, perhaps they are right; but had I not been so hitherto, I
might have been hereafter.
But how can I be sure that you will not be hereafter what you have
Please, dear uncle, give me a year's trial. If within that time you
should hear anything against me, never admit me into your house again;
if, however, I can prove that I have resolution to keep my word
Then I will never let you leave my house again, said Uncle Gabor,
shaking his hand.
* * * * *
Karely kept his word. A year had passed by, and daring all that time
no temptation could prevail on him to diverge in the slightest degree
from the resolution he had formed; and though he attended the county
meetings as usual, he had not once been seen to gamble; and after a
great dinner, he was sure to be the only sober one of the party.
Meanwhile, he put his estate in order, and employed his leisure hours
in studying languages. In the course of a year, he was looked upon as
the most regular, as well as the most accomplished man in the district.
He continues to be so still. He married Lina, whom he loves sincerely
and faithfully; and seven years have not disturbed their family peace.
Happiness is easily read in a woman's countenance, and the lapse of
years has only beautified Lina's.
Sandor is also happy. He has a handsome wife with plenty of money;
and Aunt Zsuzsi visits them every year, and wears her daughter-in-law's
old-fashioned silk dresses.
Uncle Abris is happy in his own way. He has married Boriska; and is
no longer obliged to pay her wages.
Uncle Lorincz Kassay is happy too. The visits from his relations
never diminishhis house is always full; and among the many suitors
for his pretty daughter's hand, little Peterke, now a handsome youth,
is not the least in favour.
Kalman alone is unhappy. Dissatisfied with the world, misunderstood
by everybody, his hopeful genius has turned to misanthropy. Gentle
reader, if you ever read bad verses, think of him with pity!
THE BARDY FAMILY.
We are far amidst the snow-clad mountains of Transylvania.
The scenery is magnificent. In clear weather, the plains of Hungary
as far as the Rez promontory may be seen from the summits of the
mountains. Groups of hills rise one above the other, covered with thick
forest, which, at the period when our tale commences, had just begun to
assume the first light green of spring.
Toward sunset, a slight purple mist overspread the farther
pinnacles, leaving their ridges still tinged with gold. On the side of
one of these hills, the white turrets of an ancient family mansion
gleamed from amid the trees.
Its situation was peculiarly romantic. A steep rock descended on one
side, on whose pinnacle there rose a simple cross. In the depth of the
valley beneath lay a scattered village, whose evening bells melodiously
broke the stillness of Nature.
Farther off, some broken roofs arose among the trees, from whence
the sound of the mill, and the yellow-tinted stream, betrayed the
Through the meadows in the valley beneath, a serpentine rivulet
wound its silvery way, interrupted by numerous falls and huge blocks of
stone, which had been carried down in bygone ages from the mountains
during the melting of the snows.
A little path, cut in the side of the rock, ascended to the castle;
while, higher up, a broad road, somewhat broken by the mountain
streams, conducted across the hills to more distant regions.
The castle itself was an old family mansion, which had received many
additions at different periods, as the wealth or necessities of the
It was surrounded by groups of ancient chestnut trees; and the
terrace before the court was laid out in gardens, which were now filled
with anemones, hyacinths, and other early flowers. Now and then the
head of a joyous child appeared at the windows, which were opened to
admit the evening breeze; while various members of the household
retinue were seen hastening through the corridors, or standing at the
doors in their embroidered liveries.
The castle was completely surrounded by a strong railwork of iron,
the stone pillars of which were overgrown by the evergreen leaves of
the gobea and epomoea.
* * * * *
It was the early spring of 1848.
A party, consisting of thirteen persons, had assembled in the
dining-room. They were all members of one family, and all bore the name
At the head of the board sat the grandmother, an old lady of eighty
years of age, whose snow-white hair was dressed according to the
fashion of her times beneath her high white cap. Her face was pale and
much wrinkled, and the eyes turned constantly upwards, as is the case
with persons who have lost their sight. Her hand and voice trembled
with age, and there was something peculiarly striking in the thick
On her right hand sat her eldest son, Thomas Bardy, a man of between
fifty and sixty. With a haughty and commanding countenance, penetrating
glance, lofty figure, and noble mien, he was a true type of that
ancient aristocracy which is now beginning to die out.
Opposite to him, at the old lady's left hand, sat the darling of the
familya lovely girl of about fifteen. Her golden hair fell in
luxuriant tresses round a countenance of singular beauty and sweetness.
The large and lustrous deep-blue eyes were shaded by long dark lashes,
and her complexion was pale as the lily, excepting when she smiled or
spoke, and a slight flush like the dawn of morning overspread her
Jolanka was the orphan child of a distant relative, whom the Bardys
had adopted. They could not allow one who bore their name to suffer
want; and it seemed as if each member of the family had united to heap
affection and endearment on the orphan girl, and thus prevent her from
feeling herself a stranger among them.
There were still two other female members of the family: Katalin,
the old lady's daughter, who had been for many years a widow; and the
wife of one of her sons, a pretty young woman, who was trying to teach
the little prattler at her side to use the golden spoon which she had
placed in his small fat hand, while he laughed and crowed, and the
family did their best to guess what he said, or what he most preferred.
Opposite to them there sat two gentlemen. One of them was the
husband of the young mother, Jozsef Bardya handsome man of about
five-and-thirty, with regular features, and black hair and beard; a
constant smile beamed on his gay countenance, while he playfully
addressed his little son and gentle wife across the table. The other
was his brother, Barnabasa man of herculean form and strength. His
face was marked by small-pox; he wore neither beard nor moustache, and
his hair was combed smoothly back, like a peasant's. His disposition
was melancholy and taciturn; but he seemed constantly striving to
atone, by the amiability of his manners, for an unprepossessing
Next to him sat a little cripple, whose pale countenance bore that
expression of suffering sweetness so peculiar to the deformed; while
his lank hair, bony hands, and misshapen shoulders awakened the
beholder's pity. He, too, was an orphana grandchild of the old lady;
his parents had died some years before.
Two little boys of about five years old sat opposite to him. They
were dressed alike, and the resemblance between them was so striking,
that they were constantly mistaken. They were twin-children of the
At the lower end of the table sat Imre Bardy, a young man of twenty,
whose handsome countenance was full of life and intelligence, his
figure manly and graceful, and his manners courteous and agreeable: a
slight moustache was beginning to shade his upper lip, and his dark
hair fell in natural ringlets round his head. He was the only son of
the majoresco, Tamas Bardy, and resembled him much in form and feature.
Beside him sat an old gentleman, with white hair and ruddy
complexion. This was Simon Bardy, an ancient relative, who had grown
old with the grandmother of the family.
The same peculiarity characterized every countenance in the Bardy
familynamely, the lofty forehead and marked brows, and the large
deep-blue eyes, shaded by their heavy dark lashes.
[Footnote 17: There is a race of Hungarians in the Karpath, who,
unlike the Hungarians of the plain, have blue eyes, and often fair
* * * * *
How singular! exclaimed one of the party; we are thirteen at
One of us will surely die, said the old lady; and there was a
mournful conviction in the faint trembling tones.
O no, grandmother! we are only twelve and a half, exclaimed the
young mother, taking the little one on her knee. This little fellow
only counts half on the railroad.
All the party laughed at this remark; even the little cripple's pale
countenance relaxed into a sickly smile.
Ay, ay, continued the old lady, the trees are now putting forth
their verdure; but at the fall of the leaf, who knows if all, or any of
us, may still be sitting here?
* * * * *
Several months had passed since this slight incident.
In one of the apartments of the castle, the eldest Bardy and his son
were engaged in earnest conversation.
The father paced hastily up and down the apartment, now and then
stopping short to address his son, who stood in the embrasure of one of
the windows. The latter wore the dress of the Matyas Hussarsa
gray dolmany, with crimson cord; he held a crimson csako, with a
tricoloured cockade in his hand.
[Footnote 18: Part of the free corps raised in 1848.]
Go, said his father, speaking in broken accents, the sooner the
better; let me not see you!do not think I speak in anger; but I
cannot bear to look at you, and think where you are going. You are my
only son, and you know how I have loved youhow all my hopes have been
concentrated in you. But do not think that these tears, which you see
me shed for the first time, are on your account; for if I knew I should
lose youif your blood were to flow at the next battle, I should only
bow my head in the dust and say, The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken
away, blessed be His holy name! Yes, if I heard that you and your
infatuated companions were cut to pieces, I could stifle the burning
tears; but to know that your blood, when it flows, will be a curse upon
the earth, and your death will be the death of two kingdoms
They may die now; but they will regenerate
That is not true; you only deceive yourselves with the idea that
you can build up a new edifice when you have overthrown the old one.
Great God, what sacrilege! Who has intrusted you with the fate of your
country, to tempt the Almighty? Who authorized you to lose all there is
for the hope of what may be? For centuries past, have so many
honourable men fought in vain to uphold the old tottering constitution,
as you call it? or were they not true patriots and heroes? Your
companions have hissed their persecuted countrymen in the Diet; but do
they love their country better than we do, who have shed our blood and
sacrificed our interests for her from generation to generation, and
even suffered disgrace, if necessary, to keep her in life?for though
that life has been gradually weakened, still it is life. You promise
her glory; but the name of that glory is Death!
It may be so, father; we may lose our country as regards ourselves,
but we give one instead to ten millions, who were hitherto our own
people, and yet strangers in their native land!
Chimera! The people will not understand you. They never even dreamt
of what you wish to give them. The true way to seek the people's
welfare is to give them what they need.
Ask my dependants! Is there one among them whom I have allowed to
suffer want or ruin, whom I have not assisted in times of need?or
have I ever treated them unjustly? You will not hear a murmur. Tell
them that I am unjust notwithstanding, because I do not call the
peasant from his plough to give his opinion on forming the laws and
constitution,and what will be the consequence? They will stare at you
in astonishment; and yet, in mistaken wrath they will come down some
night and burn this house over my head.
That is the unnatural state of the times. It is all the fault of
past bad management, if the people have no better ideas. But let the
peasant once be freelet him be a man, and he will understand
all that is now strange to him.
But that freedom will cost the lives of thousands!
I do not deny it. Indeed I believe that neither I nor any of the
present generation will reap the fruits of this movement. I think it
probable that in a few years not one of those whose names we now hear
spoken of may still be living; and, what is more, disgrace and curses
may be heaped upon their dust. But a time will come when the
great institutions of which they have laid the foundation will arise
and render justice to the memory of those who sacrificed themselves for
the happiness of future generations. To die for our country is a
glorious death; but to carry to the grave with us the curses of
thousands, to die despised and hated for the salvation of future
millions, oh! that is sublimeit is Messiah-like!
My sonmy only son! cried his father, throwing himself
passionately on the young man's neck, and sobbing bitterly, do you see
For the first time in my life I see them, fatherI see you weep;
my heart can scarcely bear the weight of these tearsand yet I go! You
have reason to weep, for I bring neither joy nor glory on your
headand yet I go! A feeling stronger than the desire of glory,
stronger than the love of my country, inspires my soul; and it is a
proof of the strength of my faith that I see your tears, my fatherand
Go! murmured his father in a voice of despair. You may never
return again, or, when you do, you may find neither your father's house
nor the grave in which he is laid! But know, even then, in the hour of
your death, or in the hour of mine, I do not curse youand now, leave
me. With these words he turned away, and motioned to his son to
Imre silently left the apartment, and as soon as he had closed the
door the tears streamed from his eyes; but before his sword had struck
the last step his countenance had regained its former determination,
and the fire of enthusiasm had kindled in his eye.
He then went to take leave of his Uncle Jozsef, whom he found
surrounded by his family. The twins were sitting at his feet, while his
wife was playing bo-peep with the little one, who laughed and shouted,
while his mother hid herself behind his father's arm-chair.
Imre's entrance interrupted the general mirth. The little boys ran
over to examine the sword and golden tassels, while the little one
began to cry in alarm at the sight of the strange dress.
Csitt baba! said his mother, taking him from his father's arms;
your cousin is going to the wars, and will bring you a golden horse.
Jozsef wrung his nephew's hand. God be with you! he exclaimed; and
added in a lower voice, You are the noblest of us allyou have done
They then all embraced him by turns, and Imre left them, amidst the
clamours of the little ones, and proceeded to his grandmother's
On the way, he met his Uncle Barnabas, who embraced him again and
again in silence, and then tore himself away without saying a word.
The old lady sat in her great arm-chair, which she seldom quitted,
and as she heard the clash of Imre's sword, she looked up and asked who
It is Imre! said the fair-haired maiden, blushing, and her heart
beat quickly as she pronounced his name.
Jolanka felt that Imre was more than a brother to her, and the
feeling with which she had learnt to return his affection was warmer
than even a sister's love.
The widow lady and the little cripple were also in the grandmother's
apartment: the child sat on a stool at the old lady's feet, and smiled
sadly as the young man entered.
Why that sword at your side, Imre? asked the old lady in a feeble
voice. Ah, this is no good worldno good world! But if God is against
us, who can resist His hand? I have spoken with the dead again in
dreams: I thought they all came round me and beckoned me to follow
them; but I am ready to go, and place my life with gratitude and
confidence in the hand of the Lord. Last night I saw the year 1848
written in the skies in letters of fire. Who knows what may come over
us yet! This is no good worldno good world!
Imre bent silently over the old lady's hand and kissed it.
And so you are going?well, God bless and speed you, if you go
beneath the cross, and never forget in life or in death to raise your
heart to the Lord; and the old lady placed her withered hand upon her
grandson's head, and murmured, God Almighty bless you!
My husband was just such a handsome youth when I lost him, sighed
the widow lady as she embraced her nephew; God bless you!
The little cripple threw his arms round his cousin's knees, and,
sobbing, entreated him not to stay long away.
The last who bade farewell was Jolanka. She approached with downcast
eyes, holding in her small white hands an embroidered cockade, which
she placed on his breast. It was composed of five coloursblue and
gold, red, white, and green.
[Footnote 19: Blue and gold are the colours of Transylvania.]
I understand, said the young man, in a tone of joyful surprise, as
he pressed the sweet girl to his heart; Erdely and Hungary united!
I shall win glory for your colours!
[Footnote 20: Transylvania.]
The maiden yielded to his warm embrace, murmuring, as he released
her, Remember me!
When I cease to remember you, I shall be no more, replied the
And then he kissed the young girl's brow, and once more bidding them
all farewell, he hurried from the apartment.
Old Simon Bardy lived on the first floor: Imre did not forget him.
Well, nephew, said the old man cheerfully, God speed you, and
give you strength to cut down many Turks!
It is not with the Turks that we shall have to do, replied the
young man, smiling.
Well, with the French, said the old soldier of the past century,
A page waited at the gate, with two horses saddled and bridled.
I shall not require youyou may remain at home, said Imre, as,
taking the bridle of one of the horses and vaulting lightly into the
saddle, he pressed his csako over his brow and galloped from the
As he rode under the cross, he checked his horse and looked back.
Was it of his grandmother's words, or of the golden-haired Jolanka that
A white handkerchief waved from the window.
Farewell, light of my soul! murmured the youth; and kissing his
hand, he once more dashed his spurs into his horse's flanks, and turned
down the steep hill.
* * * * *
Those were strange times. All at once the villages began to be
depopulated; the inhabitants disappeared, none knew whither. The doors
of the houses were closed.
The bells were no longer heard in the evening, nor the maiden's song
as she returned from her work. The barking of dogs which had lost their
masters alone interrupted the silence of the streets, where the grass
began to grow.
Imre Bardy rode through the street of the village without meeting a
soul; few of the chimneys had smoke, and no fires gleamed through the
Evening was drawing on, and a slight transparent mist had overspread
the valley. Imre was desirous of reaching Kolozsvar early on the
next morning, and continued his route all night. About midnight the
moon rose behind the trees, shedding her silvery light over the forest.
All was still, excepting the echo of the miner's hammer, and the
monotonous sound of his horse's step along the rocky path. He rode on,
lost in thought; when suddenly the horse stopped short, and pricked his
[Footnote 21: Klausenburg.]
Come, come, said Imre, stroking his neck, you have not heard the
The animal at last proceeded, turning his head impatiently from side
to side, and snorting and neighing with fear.
The road now led through a narrow pass between two rocks, whose
summits almost met; and a slight bridge, formed of one or two rotten
planks, was thrown across the dry channel of a mountain stream which
cut up the path.
As Imre reached the bridge, the horse backed, and no spurring could
induce him to cross. Imre at last pressed his knees angrily against the
trembling animal, striking him at the same time across the neck with
the bridle, on which the horse suddenly cleared the chasm at one bound,
and then again turned and began to back.
At that instant a fearful cry rose from beneath, which was echoed
from the rocks around, and ten or fifteen savage-looking beings climbed
from under the bridge, with lances formed of upright scythes.
Even then there would have been time for the horseman to turn back,
and dash through the handful of men behind him; but either he was
ashamed of turning from the first conflict, or he was desirous, at any
risk, to reach Kolozsvar at the appointed time; and instead of
retreating by the bridge, he galloped towards the other end of the
pass, where the enemy rushed upon him from every side, yelling
Back, Wallachian dogs! cried Imre, cutting two of them down, while
several others sprang forward with their scythes.
Two shots whistled by, and Imre, letting go the bridle, cut right
and left, his sword gleaming rapidly among the awkward weapons; and,
taking advantage of a moment in which the enemy's charge began to
slacken, he suddenly dashed through the crowd towards the outlet of the
rock, without perceiving that another party awaited him above the rocks
with great stones, with which they prepared to crush him as he passed.
He was only a few paces from the spot, when a gigantic figure, armed
with a short broad axe, and with a Roman helmet on his head, descended
from the rock in front of him, and seizing the reins of the horse,
forced him to halt.
The young man aimed a blow at his enemy's head, and the helmet fell
back, cut through the middle, but the force of the blow had broken his
sword in two; and the horse, lifted by his giant foe, reared, so that
the rider, losing his balance, was thrown against the side of the rock,
and fell senseless to the ground. At the same instant a shot was fired
towards them from the top of the rock.
Who fired there? cried the giant, in a voice of thunder.
The bloodthirsty Wallachians would have rushed madly on their
defenceless prey, had not the giant stood between him and them.
Who fired on me? he sternly exclaimed.
The Wallachians stood back in terror.
It was not on you, Decurio, that I fired, but on the hussar,
stammered out one of the men, on whom the giant had fixed his eye.
You lie, traitor! Your ball struck my armour; and had I not worn a
shirt of mail, it would have pierced my heart.
The man turned deadly pale, trembling from head to foot.
My enemies have paid you to murder me?
The savage tried to speak, but the words died upon his lips.
Hang him instantlyhe is a traitor!
The rest of the gang immediately seized the culprit and carried him
to the nearest tree, from whence his shrieks soon testified that the
sentence was being put in execution.
The Decurio remained alone with the young man; and hastily lifting
him, still senseless, from the ground, he mounted his horse, and
placing him before him, ere the savage horde had returned, he had
galloped to some distance along the road from whence the youth had
come, covering him with his mantle as he passed the bridge, to conceal
him from several of the gang who stood there, and exclaiming: Follow
me to Topanfalva.
As soon as they were out of sight, he suddenly turned to the left,
down a steep hilly path, and struck into the depth of the forest.
* * * * *
The morning sun had just shot its first beams across the hills,
tinting with golden hues the reddening autumn leaves, when the young
hussar began to move in his fevered dreams, and murmured the name
In a few moments he opened his eyes. He was lying in a small
chamber, through the only window of which the sunbeams shone upon his
The bed on which he lay was made of lime-boughs, simply woven
together, and covered with wolves' skins. A gigantic form was leaning
against the foot of the bed with his arms folded, and as the young man
awoke, he turned round. It was the Decurio.
Where am I? asked the young man, vaguely endeavouring to recall
the events of the past night.
In my house, replied the Decurio.
And who are you?
I am Numa, Decurio of the Roumin Legion, your foe in battle,
but now your host and protector.
[Footnote 22: The Wallachians were, in the days of Trajan, subdued
by the Romans, with whom they became intermixed, and are also called
And why did you save me from your men? asked the young man, after
a short silence.
Because the strife was unequala hundred against one.
But had it not been for you, I could have freed myself from them.
Without me you had been lost. Ten paces from where I stopped your
horse, you would inevitably have been dashed to pieces by huge stones
which they were preparing to throw down upon you from the rock.
And you did not desire my death?
No, because it would have reflected dishonour on the Roumin name.
You are a chivalrous man, Decurio!
I am what you are: I know your character, and the same feeling
inspires us both. You love your nation, as I do mine. Your nation is
great and cultivated; mine is despised and neglected, and my love is
the more bitterly devoted. Your love for your country makes you happy;
mine deprives me of peace. You have taken up arms to defend your
country without knowing your own strength, or the numbers of the foe; I
have done the same. Either of us may lose, or we may both be blotted
out; but though the arms may lie buried in the earth, rust will not eat
I do not understand your grievances.
You do not understand? Know, then, that although fourteen centuries
have passed since the Roman eagle overthrew Diurbanus, there are still
those among usthe now barbarous peoplewho can trace their descent
from generation to generation, up to the times of its past glory. We
have still our traditions, if we have nothing more; and can point out
what forest stands in the place of the ancient Sarmisaegethusa, and
what town is built where once Decebalus overthrew the far-famed troops
of the Consulate. And alas for that town! if the graves over which its
houses are built should once more open, and turn the populous streets
into a field of battle! What is become of the nation, the heir of so
much glory?the proud Dacians, the descendants of the far-famed
legions? I do not reproach any nation for having brought us to what we
now are; but let none reproach me if I desire to restore my people to
what they once were.
And do you believe that this is the time?
We have no prophets to point out the hour; but it seems yours do
not see more clearly. We shall attempt it now; and if we fail, our
grandchildren will attempt it again. We have nothing to lose but a few
lives; you risk much that is worth losing, and yet you assemble beneath
the banner of war. Then what would you do if you were like us?a
people who possess nothing in the world, among whom there is not one
able or one instructed head; for although every third man bears the
name of Popa, it is not every hundredth who can read: a people excluded
from every employment; who live a miserable life in the severest manual
labour; who have not one noble city in their country, the home of
three-fourths of their people! Why should we seek to know the signs of
the times in which we are to die, or be regenerated? We have nothing
but our wretchedness, and if we are conquered we lose nothing. Oh! you
did wrong for your own peace to leave a nation to such utter neglect!
We do not take up arms for our nation alone, but for freedom in
You do wrong. It is all the same to us who our sovereign may be,
only let him be just towards us, and raise up our fallen people; but
you will destroy your nationits power, its influence, and
privilegesmerely that you may live in a country without a head.
A loud uproar interrupted the conversation. A disorderly troop of
Wallachians approached the Decurio's house, triumphantly bearing the
hussar's csako on a pole before them.
Had I left you there last night, they would now have exhibited your
head instead of your csako.
The crowd halted before the Decurio's window, greeting him with loud
The Decurio spoke a few words in the Wallachian language, on which
they replied more vehemently than before, at the same time thrusting
forward the kalpag on the pole.
The Decurio turned hastily round. Was your name written on your
kalpag? he asked the young man, in evident embarrassment.
Unhappy youth! The people, furious at not having found you, are
determined to attack your father's house.
And you will permit them? asked the youth, starting from bed.
I dare not contradict them, unless I would lose their confidence. I
can prevent nothing.
Give me uplet them wreak their bloody vengeance on my head!
I should only betray myself for having concealed you; and it would
not save your father's house.
And if they murder the innocent and unprotected, on whom will the
ignominy of their blood fall?
On me; but I will give you the means of preventing this disgrace.
Do you accept it?
I will give you a disguise; hasten to Kolozsvar and assemble your
comradesthen return and protect your house. I will await you there,
and man to man, in open honourable combat, the strife will no longer be
Thanks! thanks! murmured the youth, pressing the Decurio's hand.
There is not a moment to lose; here is a peasant's mantleif you
should be interrogated, you have only to show this paszura, and
mention my name. Your not knowing the language is of no consequence; my
men are accustomed to see Hungarian gentlemen visit me in disguise, and
having only seen you by night, they will not recognise you.
[Footnote 23: Everything on which the double-headed eaglethe
emblem of the Austrian Governmentwas painted, engraved, or
sculptured, the Wallachians call paszura.]
Imre hastily took the dress, while the Decurio spoke to the people,
made arrangements for the execution of their plans, and pointed out the
way to the castle, promising to follow them immediately.
Accept my horse as a remembrance, said the young man, turning to
I accept it, as it would only raise suspicion were you to mount it;
but you may recover it again in the field. Haste, and lose no time! If
you delay, you will bring mourning on your own head, and disgrace on
In a few minutes the young man, disguised as a Wallachian peasant,
was hastening on foot across the hills to Kolozsvar.
* * * * *
It was past midnight.
The inhabitants of the Bardy castle had all retired to rest. The
iron gate was locked and the windows barred, when suddenly the sound of
demoniac cries roused the slumberers from their dreams.
What is that noise? cried Jozsef Bardy, springing from his bed,
and rushing to the window.
The Olahok! cried a hussar, who had rushed to his master's
apartments on hearing the sounds.
[Footnote 24: Olah, Wallachianok, plural.]
The Olah! the Olah! was echoed through the corridors by the
By the light of a few torches, a hideous crowd was seen before the
windows, armed with scythes and axes, which they were brandishing with
Lock all the doors! cried Jozsef Bardy, with calm presence of
mind; barricade the great entrance, and take the ladies and children
to the back rooms. You must not lose your heads, but all assemble
together in the turret-chamber, from whence the whole building may be
protected. And, taking down two good rifles from over his bed, he
hastened to his elder brother Tamas's apartments.
He found him already dressed in his richest costume, with his
jewelled sabre by his side, and walking calmly up and down the room.
The turret-chamber opened from his apartments, and overlooked the
Have you heard the noise? asked his brother as he entered.
I knew it would come, he replied, and coolly continued to pace the
And are you not preparing for defence?
To what purpose?they will kill us all. I am quite prepared for
what must inevitably happen.
But it will not happen if we defend ourselves courageously. We are
eight menthe walls of the castle are strongthe besiegers have no
guns, and no place to protect them; we may hold out for days, until
assistance comes from Kolozsvar.
We shall lose, replied Tamas coldly, and without the slightest
change of countenance.
Then I shall defend the castle myself. I have a wife and
childrenour old grandmother and our sister are here, and I shall
protect them, if I remain alone.
At that instant Barnabas and old Simon entered with the widowed
Barnabas had a huge twenty-pound iron club in his hand; grinding his
teeth, and with eyes darting fire, he seemed capable of meeting
single-handed the whole troop.
He was followed by the widow, with two loaded pistols in her hand,
and old Simon, who entreated them not to use violence, or exasperate
Conduct yourselves bravely! replied the widow, drily; let us not
die in vain.
Come with mewe shall send them all to hell! cried Barnabas,
swinging the club in his herculean arm as if it had been a reed.
Let us not be too hasty, interrupted Jozsef; we will stand here
in the tower, from whence we can shoot every one that approaches, and
if they break in, we can meet them on the stairs.
For Heaven's sake! cried Simon, what are you going to do? If you
kill one of them, they will massacre us all. Speak to them
peaceablypromise them winetake them to the cellargive them
moneytry to pacify them! Nephew Tamas, you will speak to
them? continued the old man, turning to Tamas, who still paced up and
down, without the slightest visible emotion.
Pacification or resistance are equally vain, he replied coldly;
we are inevitably lost!
We have no time for delay, said Jozsef impatiently, take the arms
from the wall, Barnabas, give one to each servantlet them stand at
the back windows of the house, we two are enough here. Sister, stand
between the windows, that the stones may not hit you; and when you
load, do not strike the balls too far in, that our aim may be the more
No! no!I cannot let you fire, exclaimed the old man,
endeavouring to drag Jozsef from the window. You must not fire
yetonly remain quiet.
Go to the hurricane, old man! would you have us use holy water
against a shower of stones?
At that instant several large stones were dashed through the
windows, breaking the furniture against which they fell.
Only wait, said Simon, until I speak with them. I am sure I shall
pacify them. I can speak their language, and I know them alljust let
me go to them.
A vain idea! If you sue for mercy they will certainly kill you, but
if you show courage, you may bring them to their senses. You had better
stay and take a gun.
But the old man was already out of hearing, and, hurrying down
stairs, he went out of a back door into the court, which the
Wallachians had not yet taken possession of.
They were endeavouring to break down one of the stone pillars of the
iron gate with their axes and hammers, and had already succeeded in
making an aperture, through which one of the gang now climbed.
Old Simon recognised him. Lupuj, my son, what do you want here?
said the old man. Have we ever offended you? Do you forget all that I
have done for you?how I cured your wife when she was so ill, and got
you off from the military; and how, when your ox died, I gave you two
fine bullocks to replace it? Do you not know me, my son Lupuj?
I am not your son Lupuj now; I am a 'malcontent!' cried the
Wallachian, aiming a blow with his heavy hammer at the old man's head.
Uttering a deep groan, Simon fell lifeless to the ground.
The rest of the party saw the scene from the tower.
Barnabas rushed from the room like a maddened tiger, while Jozsef,
retiring cautiously behind the embrasure of the window, aimed his gun
as they were placing his uncle's head upon a spike, and shot the first
who raised it. Another seized it, and the next instant he too fell to
the earth; another, and another, as many as attempted to raise the
head, till, finally, none dared approach.
The widow loaded the guns, while Tamas sat quietly in an arm-chair.
Meanwhile Barnabas had hurried to the attics, where several large
fragments of iron had been stowed away, and, dragging them to a window
which overlooked the entrance, he waited until the gang had assembled
round the door, and were trying to break in; when, lifting an enormous
piece with gigantic strength, he dropped it on the heads of the
Fearful cries arose, and the gang, who were at the door, fled right
and left, leaving four or five of their number crushed beneath the
The next moment they returned with redoubled fury, dashing stones
against the windows and the roof, while the door resounded with the
blows of their clubs.
Notwithstanding the stones which were flying round him, Barnabas
stood at the window dashing down the heavy iron masses, and killing two
or three men every time.
His brother, meanwhile, continued firing from the tower, and not a
ball was aimed in vain. The besiegers had lost a great number, and
began to fall back, after fruitless efforts to break in the door, when
a footman entered breathless, to inform Barnabas that the Wallachians
were beginning to scale the opposite side of the castle with ladders,
and that the servants were unable to resist them.
Barnabas rushed to the spot.
Two servants lay mortally wounded in one of the back rooms, through
the windows of which the Wallachians were already beginning to enter,
while another ladder had been placed against the opposite window, which
they were beginning to scale as Barnabas entered.
Here, wretches! he roared furiously, and, seizing the ladder with
both hands, shook it so violently that the men were precipitated from
it, and then, lifting it with supernatural strength, he dashed it
against the opposite one, which broke with the force of the weight
thrown against it, the upper part falling backwards with the men upon
it, while one of the party remained hanging from the window-sill, and,
after immense exertions to gain a footing, he too fell to the earth.
Barnabas rushed into the next room grinding his teeth, his lips
foaming, and his face of a livid hue: so appalling was his whole
appearance, that one of the gang, who had been the first to enter by
the window, turned pale with terror, and dropped his axe.
Taking advantage of this, Barnabas darted on his enemy, and,
dragging him with irresistible force to the window, he dashed him from
On here! as many as you are, he shouted furiously, the blood
gushing from his mouth from the blow of a stone. On! all who wish a
At that instant, a shriek of terror rose within the house. The
Wallachians had discovered the little back door which Simon had left
open, and, stealing through it, were already inside the house, when the
shrieks of a servant girl gave the besieged notice of their danger.
Barnabas, seizing his club, hurried in the direction of the sounds;
he met his brother on the stairs, who had likewise heard the cry, and
hastened thither with his gun in his hand, accompanied by the widow.
Go, sister! said Jozsef, take my wife and children to the attics;
we will try to guard the staircase step by step. Kiss them all for me.
If we die, the villains will put us all in one gravewe shall meet
The widow retired.
The two brothers silently pressed hands, and then, standing on the
steps, awaited their enemies. They did not wait long.
The bloodhounds, with shouts of vengeance, rushed on the narrow
Hah! thus near I love to have you, dogs of hell! cried Barnabas,
raising his iron club with both hands, and dealing such blows right and
left, that none whom it reached rose again. The stairs were covered
with the dead and wounded, while their death-cries, and the sound of
the heavy club, echoed fearfully through the vaulted building.
The foremost of the gang retreated as precipitately as they had
advanced, but were continually pressed forward again by the numbers
from behind, while Barnabas drove them back unweariedly, cutting an
opening through them with the blows of his club.
He had already beaten them back nearly to the bottom of the stairs,
when one of the gang, who had concealed himself in a niche, pierced him
through the back with a spike.
Dashing his club amongst the retreating crowd, he turned with a cry
of rage, and, seizing his murderer by the shoulders, dragged him down
with him to the ground.
The first four who rushed to help the murderer were shot dead by
Jozsef Bardy, who, when he had fired off both his muskets, still
defended his prostrate brother with the butt-end of one, until he was
overpowered and disarmed; after which a party of them carried him out
to the iron cross, and crucified him on it amidst the most shocking
On trying to separate the other brother from his murderer, they
found them both dead. With his last strength Barnabas had choked his
enemy, whom he still held firmly in his deadly grip, and they were
obliged to cut off his hand in order to disengage the Wallachian's
Tamas, the eldest brother, now alone survived. Seated in his
arm-chair, he calmly awaited his enemies, with a large silver
chandelier burning on the table before him.
As the noise approached his chamber, he drew from its jewelled
sheath his broad curved sword, and, placing it on the table before him,
proceeded coolly to examine the ancient blade, which was inscribed with
At last the steps were at the door; the handle was turnedit had
not even been locked.
The magnate rose, and, taking his sword from the table, he stood
silently and calmly before his enemies, who rushed upon him with
fearful oaths, brandishing their weapons still reeking with the blood
of his brothers.
The nobleman stood motionless as a statue until they came within two
paces of him; when suddenly the bright black steel gleamed above his
head, and the foremost man fell at his feet with his skull split to the
chin. The next received a deep gash in the shoulder of his outstretched
arm; but not a word escaped the magnate's lips, his countenance
retained its cold, and stern expression, as he looked at his enemies in
calm disdain, as if to say,Even in combat a nobleman is worth ten
Warding off with the skill of a professed swordsman, every blow
aimed at him, he coolly measured his own thrusts, inflicting severe
wounds on his enemies' faces and heads; but the more he evaded them,
the more furious they became. At last he received a severe wound in the
leg from a scythe, and fell on one knee; but, without evincing the
slightest pain, he still continued fighting with the savage mob, until,
after a long and obstinate struggle, he fell, without a murmur, or even
The enraged gang cut his body to pieces, and in a few minutes they
had hoisted the head on his own sword. Even then the features retained
their haughty and contemptuous expression.
He was the last man of the family with whom they had to combat, but
more than a hundred of their own band lay stretched in the court and
before the windows, covering the stairs and rooms with heaps of bodies;
and when the shouts of triumph ceased for an instant, the groans of the
wounded and the dying were heard from every side.
* * * * *
None now remained but women and children.
When the Wallachians broke into the castle, the widow had taken them
all to the attics, leaving the door open, that her brothers might find
a refuge in case they were forced to retreat; and here the weaker
members of the family awaited the issue of the combat which was to
bring them life or death, listening breathlessly to the uproar, and
endeavouring, from its confused sounds, to determine good or evil.
At last the voices died away, and the hideous cries of the besiegers
ceased. The trembling women believed that the Wallachians had been
driven out, and, breathing more freely, each awaited with impatience
the approach of brotherhusbandsons.
At last a heavy step was heard on the stairs leading to the garret.
That is Barnabas's step! cried the widow joyfully, and, still
holding the pistols in her hand, she ran to the door of the garret.
Instead of her expected brother, a savage form, drunken with blood,
strode towards her, his countenance burning with rage and triumph.
The widow started back, uttering a shriek of terror, and then, with
that unaccountable courage of desperation, she aimed one of the pistols
at the Wallachian's breast, who instantly fell backwards on one of his
comrades, who followed close behind. The other pistol she discharged
into her own bosom.
And now we must draw a veil over the scene that followed.
What happened there may not be witnessed by human eyes. Suffice it
to say, they murdered every one, women and children, with the most
refined and brutal cruelty, and then threw their dead bodies out of the
window from which Barnabas had dashed down the iron fragments on the
They left the old grandmother to the last, that she might witness
the extermination of her whole family. Happily for her, her eyes had
ceased to distinguish the light of the sun, and ere long the light of
an eternal glory had risen upon them.
The Wallachians then dug a common grave for the bodies, and threw
them all in together. The little one, whom his parents loved so well,
they cast in alive, his nurse having escaped from the attics and
carried him down stairs, where they had been overtaken by the savages.
There are only eleven here! cried one of the gang, who had counted
the bodies; one of them must be still alive somewherethere ought to
be twelve! and then they once more rushed through the empty rooms,
overturning all the furniture, and cutting up and breaking everything
they met with. They searched the garrets and every corner of the
cellars, but without success.
At last a yell of triumph was heard. One of them had discovered a
door which, being painted of the same colour as the walls, had hitherto
escaped their observation. It concealed a small apartment in the
turret. With a few blows of their axes it was broken open, and they
Ah! a rare booty! cried the foremost of the ruffians, while, with
bloodthirsty curiosity, the others pressed round to see the new victim.
There lay the little orphan with the golden hair; her eyes were
closed, and a death-like hue had overspread her beautiful features.
Her aunt, with an instinctive foreboding, had concealed her here
when she took the others to the attics.
The orphan grasped a sharp knife in her hand, with which she had
attempted to kill herself; and when her fainting hands refused the
fearful service, she had swooned in despair.
Ah! cried the Wallachians, in savage admiration, their
bloodthirsty countenances assuming a still more hellish expression.
This is common booty! cried several voices together.
A beautiful girl! A noble lady! ha, ha, ha! She will just suit the
tattered Wallachians! and with their foul and bloody hands, they
seized the young girl by her fair slight arms.
Ha! what is going on here? thundered a voice from behind.
The Wallachians looked round.
A figure stood among them fully a head taller than all the rest. He
wore a brass helmet, in which a deep cleft was visible, and held in his
left hand a short Roumin sword. His features bore the ancient Roman
The Decurio! they murmured, making way for him.
What is going on here? he repeated; and seeing the fainting girl
in the arms of a Wallachian, he ordered him to lay her down.
She is one of our enemies, replied the savage insolently.
Silence, knave! Does one of the Roumin nation seek enemies in
women? lay her down instantly.
Not so, leader, interrupted Lupuj; our laws entitle us to a
division of the spoil. This girl is our booty; she belongs to us after
I know our laws better than you do, churl! Due division of spoil is
just and fair; but we cast lots for what cannot be divided.
True, leader: a horse or an ox cannot be divided, and for them we
cast lots; but in this case
I have said it cannot, and I should like to know who dares
to say it can!
Lupuj knew the Decurio too well to proffer another syllable, and the
rest turned silently away from the girl; one voice alone was heard to
exclaim, It can!
Who dares to say that? cried the Decurio; let him come forward!
A young Wallachian, with long plaited hair, confronted the Decurio.
He was evidently intoxicated, and replied, striking his breast with his
fist: I said so.
Scarcely had the words escaped his lips, than the Decurio, raising
his left hand, severed the contradictor's head at one stroke from his
body; and as it fell back, the lifeless trunk dropped on its knees
before the Decurio, with its arms round him, as if in supplication.
Dare any one still say it can? asked Numa, with merciless rigour.
The Wallachians turned silently away.
Put the horses immediately to the carriage; the girl must be placed
in it, and brought to Topanfalva. Whoever has the good fortune of
winning her, has a right to receive her as I confide her to you; but if
any one of you should dare to offend her in the slightest degree, even
by a look or a smile, remember this, and take example from it,
continued the Decurio, pointing with his sword to the headless body of
the young man. And now you may godestroy and pillage.
At these words the band scattered right and left, leaving the
Decurio with the fainting girl, whom he lifted into the carriage and
confided to some faithful retainers of the family, pointing out the
road across the hills.
In half an hour the castle was in flames; and the Wallachians,
descending into the cellars, had knocked out the bottoms of the casks,
and bathed in the sea of flowing wine and brandy, singing wild songs,
while the fire burst from every window, enveloping the blackened walls;
after which the revellers departed, leaving their dead, and those who
were too helplessly intoxicated to follow them.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, they brought the young girl to the Decurio's house; and
as each man considered that he had an equal right to the prize, they
kept a vigilant eye upon her, and none dared offend her so much as by a
When the Decurio arrived, they all crowded into the house with him,
filling the rooms, as well as the entrance and porch.
Having laid out the spoil before them on the ground, the leader
proceeded to divide it into equal shares, retaining for himself the
portion of ten men, after which most of the band dispersed to their
homes; but a good many remained, greedily eyeing their still
unappropriated victim, who lay pale and motionless as the dead on the
couch of lime-boughs, where they had laid her.
You are waiting, I suppose, to cast lots for the girl? said Numa
Certainly, replied Lupuj, with an insolent leer; and his she will
be who casts highest. If two, or ten, or twenty of us should cast the
same, we have an equal right to her.
I tell you only one can have her, interrupted Numa sternly.
Then those who win must cast again among each other.
Casting the die will not do: we may throw all day long, and two may
remain at the end.
Well, let us play cards for her.
I cannot allow that: the more cunning will deceive the simpler.
Well, write our names upon bricks, and throw them all into a
barrel; and whichever name you draw will take away the girl.
I can say what name I please, for none of you can read.
The Wallachian shook his head impatiently.
Well, propose something yourself, Decurio.
I will. Let us try which of us can give the best proof of courage
and daring; and whoever can do that, shall have the girl, for he best
Well said! cried the men unanimously. Let us each relate what we
have done, and then you can judge which among us is the boldest.
I killed the first Bardy in the court, in sight of his family.
I broke in the door, when that terrible man was dashing down the
iron on our heads.
But it was I who pierced his heart.
I mounted the stairs first.
I fought nearly half an hour with the noble in the cloth of gold.
And thus they continued. Each man, according to his own account, was
the first and the bravesteach had performed miracles of valour.
You have all behaved with great daring; but it is impossible now to
prove what has happened. The proof must be given here, by all of you
together, before my eyes, indisputably.
Well, tell us how, said Lupuj impatiently, always fearing that the
Decurio was going to deceive them.
Look here, said Numa, drawing a small cask from beneath the
bedand in doing so he observed that the young girl half opened her
eyes, as she glanced at him, and then closed them. She was awake, and
had heard all.
As he stooped down, Numa whispered gently in her ear: Fear
nothing, and then drew the cask into the middle of the room.
The Wallachians stared with impatient curiosity as he knocked out
the bottom of the cask with a hatchet.
This cask contains gunpowder, continued the Decurio. We will
light a match and place it in the middle of the cask, and whoever
remains longest in the room is undoubtedly the most courageous; for
there is enough here to blow up not only this house, but the whole of
the neighbouring village.
At this proposition several of the men began to murmur.
If any are afraid, they are not obliged to remain, said the
I agree, said Lupuj doggedly, I will remain here; and perhaps,
after all, it is poppy-seeds you have got thereit looks very like
The Decurio stooped down, and taking a small quantity between his
fingers, threw it into the Wallachian's pipe, which immediately
exploded, causing him to stagger backwards, and the next instant he
stood with a blackened visage, sans beard and moustache, amidst the
jeers and laughter of his comrades.
This only exasperated him the more.
I will stay for all that, he exclaimed; and lifting up the pipe
which he had dropped, he walked over and lit it at the burning match
which the Decurio was placing in the cask.
Upon this, two-thirds of the men left the room.
The rest assembled round the cask with much noise and bravado,
swearing by heaven and earth that they would stay until the match was
burned out; but the more they swore, the more they looked at the
burning match, the flame of which was slowly approaching the gunpowder.
For some minutes their courage remained unshaken; but after that
they ceased to boast, and began to look at each other in silent
consternation, while their faces grew paler every instant. At last one
or two rose and stood aloof; the others followed their example, and
some grinding their teeth with rage, others chattering with terror,
they all began to leave the room.
Only two remained beside the cask: Numa, who stood with his arms
folded, leaning against the foot of the bed; and Lupuj, who was sitting
on the rim of the cask with his back turned to the danger, and smoking
As soon as they were alone, the latter glanced behind him, and saw
that the flame was within an inch of the powder.
I'll tell you what, Decurio, he said, springing up: we are only
two left, don't let us make fools of each other; let us come to an
understanding on this matter.
If you are tired of waiting, I can press the match lower.
This is no jest, Numa; you are risking your own life. How can you
wish to send us both to hell for the sake of a pale girl? But I'll tell
you whatI'll give her up to you if you will only promise that she
shall be mine when you are tired of her.
Remain here and win herif you dare.
To what purpose? said the Wallachian, in a whining voice; and in
his impatience he began to tear his clothes and stamp with his feet,
like a petted child.
What I have said stands good, said the Decurio; whoever remains
longest has the sole right to the lady.
Well, I will stay, of course; but what do I gain by it? I know you
will stay too, and then the devil will have us both; and I speak not
only for myself when I say I do not wish that.
If you do not wish it, you had better be gone.
Well, I don't careif you will give me a golden mark.
Not the half: stay if you like it.
Decurio, this is madness! The flame will reach the powder
I see it.
Well, say a dollar.
Not a whit.
May the seventy-seven limbed thunderbolt strike you on St.
Michael's day! roared the Wallachian fiercely, as he rushed to the
door; but after he had gone out, he once more thrust his head in and
Will you give even a florin? I am not gone yet.
Nor have I removed the match; you may come back.
The Wallachian slammed the door, and ran for his life, till
exhausted and breathless he sank under a tree, where he lay with his
tunic over his head, and his ears covered with his hands, only now and
then raising his head nervously, to listen for the awful explosion
which was to blow up the world.
Meanwhile Numa coolly removed the match, which was entirely burnt
down; and throwing it into the grate, he stepped over to the bed, and
whispered in the young girl's ear: You are free!
Tremblingly she raised herself in the bed, and taking the Decurio's
large and sinewy hands within her own, she murmured: Be merciful! O
hear my prayer, and kill me!
The Decurio stroked the fair head of the lovely suppliant.
Poor child! he replied gently, you have nothing to fear; nobody
will hurt you now.
You have saved me from these fearful peoplenow save me from
You have nothing to fear from me, replied the Dacian proudly; I
fight for liberty alone, and you may rest as securely within my
threshold as on the steps of the altar. When I am absent you need have
no anxiety, for these walls are impregnable; and if any one should dare
offend you by the slightest look, that moment shall be the last of his
mortal career. And when I am at home you have nothing to fear, for
woman's image never dwelt within my heart. Accept my poor couch, and
may your rest be sweet!Imre Bardy slept on it last night.
Imre! exclaimed the girl, starting. You have seen him, then?oh!
where is he?
The Decurio hesitated. He should not have delayed so long, he
murmured, pressing his hand against his brow; all would have been
Oh! let me go to him, if you know where he is.
I do not know; but I am certain that he will come here if he is
aliveindeed, he must come.
Why do you think that?
Because he will seek you.
Did he then speakbefore you?
As he lay wounded on that couch, he pronounced your name in his
dreams. Are you not that Jolanka Bardy whom they call 'The angel'? I
knew you by your golden locks.
The young girl cast down her eyes. Then you think he will come?
she said in a low voice. And my relations?
He will come as soon as possible; and now you must take some food
and rest. Do not think about your relations now; they are all in a safe
placenobody can hurt them more.
The Decurio brought some refreshment, laid a small prayer-book on
the pillow, and left the orphan by herself.
The poor girl opened the prayer-book, and her tears fell like
rain-drops on the blessed page; but, overcome by the fatigue and terror
she had undergone, her head ere long sank gently back, and she slept
calmly and sweetly the sleep of exhausted innocence.
As evening closed, the Decurio returned; and, softly approaching the
bed, looked long and earnestly at the fair sleeper's face, until two
large tears stood unconsciously in his eyes.
The Roumin hastily brushed away the unwonted moisture; and as if
afraid of the feeling which had stolen into his breast, he hastened
from the room, and laid himself upon his woollen rug before the open
* * * * *
The deserted castle still burned on, shedding a ghastly light on the
surrounding landscape, while the deepest silence reigned around, only
broken now and then by an expiring groan, or the hoarse song of a
Day was beginning to dawn, as a troop of horsemen galloped furiously
towards the castle from the direction of Kolozsvar.
They were Imre and his comrades.
Silently and anxiously they pursued their course, their eyes fixed
upon one point, as they seemed to fly rather than gallop along the
We are too late! exclaimed one of the party at last, pointing to a
dim red smoke against the horizon; your castle is burning!
Without returning an answer, Imre spurred his panting horse to a
swifter pace. A turn in the road suddenly brought the castle to their
view, its blackened walls still burning, while the red smoke rose high
against the side of the hill.
The young man uttered a fierce cry of despair, and galloped madly
down the declivity. In less than a quarter of an hour he stood before
the ruined walls.
Where is my father? where are my family? where is my bride? he
shrieked in frantic despair, brandishing his sword over the head of a
half-drunken Wallachian, who was leaning against the ruined portico.
The latter fell on his knees, imploring mercy, and declaring that it
was not he who had killed them.
Then they are dead! exclaimed the unhappy youth, as, half-choked
by his sobs, he fell forward on his horse's neck.
Meanwhile his companions had ridden up, and immediately surrounded
the Wallachian, whom, but for Imre's interference, they would have cut
Lead us to where you have buried them. Are they all dead?
he continued; have you not left one alive? Accursed be the sun that
rises after such a night!
The Wallachian pointed to a large heap of freshly-raised mould.
They are all there! he said.
Imre fell from his horse without another word, as if struck down.
His companions removed him to a little distance, where the grass was
They then began to dig twelve graves with their swords.
Imre watched them in silence. He seemed unconscious what they were
When they had finished the graves they proceeded to open the large
pit, but the sight was too horrible, and they carried Imre away by
force. He could not have looked on what was there and still retained
In a short time, one of his comrades approached and told him that
there were only eleven bodies in the grave.
Then one of them must be alive! cried Imre, a slight gleam of hope
passing over his pale features; which is it?speak! Is there not a
young girl with golden locks among them?
I know not, stammered his comrade, in great embarrassment.
You do not know?go and look again.
His friend hesitated.
Let me goI must know, said Imre impatiently, as the young man
endeavoured to detain him.
O stay, Imre, you cannot look on them; they are allheadless!
My God! exclaimed the young man, covering his face with both his
hands, and, bursting into tears, he threw himself down with his face
upon the earth.
His comrades questioned the Wallachian closely as to what he knew
about the young girl. First he returned no answer, pretending to be
drunk and not to understand; but on their promising to spare his life,
on the sole condition that he would speak the truth, he confessed that
she had been carried away to the mountains, where the band were to cast
lots for her.
I must go! said Imre, starting as if from a trance.
Whither? inquired his comrades.
To seek her! Take off your dress, he continued, turning to the
Wallachian, you may have mine in exchange; and, hastily putting on
the tunic, he concealed his pistols in the girdle beneath it.
We will follow you, said his comrades, taking up their arms; we
will seek her from village to village.
No, no, I must go alone! I shall find her more easily alone. If I
do not return, avenge this for me, he said, pointing to the moat;
then, turning to the Wallachian, he added sternly, I have found
beneath your girdle a gold medallion which my grandmother always wore
suspended from her neck, and by which I know you to be one of her
murderers, and, had I not promised to spare your life, you should now
receive the punishment that you deserve. Keep him here, he said to his
comrades, until I have crossed the hills, and then let him go.
And taking leave of his friends, he cast one glance at the eleven
heaps, and at the burning castle of his ancestors, and hastened towards
* * * * *
The hoary autumn nights had dyed the leaves of the forest. The whole
country looked as if it had been washed in blood.
Deep amidst the wildest forest the path suddenly descends into a
narrow valley surrounded by steep rocks, at the foot of which lies a
little village half concealed among the trees.
It seemed as if the settlers there had only cleared sufficient
ground to build their dwellings, leaving all the rest a dense mass of
forest. Apart from the rest, on the top of a rock, stood a cottage,
which, unlike the others, was constructed entirely of large blocks of
stone, and only approachable by a small path cut in the rock.
A young man ascended this path. He was attired in a peasant's garb,
and although he evidently had travelled far, his step was light and
fleet. When he had ascended about half way, he was suddenly stopped by
an armed Wallachian, who had been kneeling before a shrine in the rock,
and, on seeing the stranger, rose and stood in his path.
The latter pronounced the Decurio's name, and produced his pazsura.
The Wallachian examined it on every side, and then stepped back to
let the stranger pass, after which, he once more laid down his scythe
and cap, and knelt before the shrine.
The stranger knocked at the Decurio's door, which was locked; and an
armed Wallachian appeared from behind the rock, and informed him that
the Decurio was not at home, only his wife.
His wife? exclaimed the stranger in surprise.
Yes, that pale girl who fell to him by lot.
And she is his wife?
He told us so himself, and swore that if any of us dared so much as
lift his eye upon her, he would send him to St. Nicholas in paradise.
Can I not see her?
I would not advise you; for if the Decurio hears of it, he will
make two halves of you; but you may go round to the window if you
likeonly let me get out of the way first, that the Decurio may not
find me here.
The stranger hastened to the window, and, looking in, he saw the
young girl seated on an arm-chair made of rough birch boughs, with a
little prayer-book on her knee; her fair arm supporting her head, while
a mass of golden ringlets half veiled her face, which was pale as an
alabaster statue; the extreme sadness of its expression rendering her
beauty still more touching.
Jolanka! exclaimed the stranger passionately.
She started at the well-known voice, and, uttering a cry of joy,
rushed to the window.
Oh, Imre! she murmured, are you come at last!
Can I not enter? can I not speak with you?
The young girl hastened to unbar the door, which was locked from the
inside, and as Imre entered she threw herself into his arms, while he
pressed her fondly to his heart.
The Wallachian, who had stolen to the window, stood aghast with
terror, and, as soon as the Decurio arrived, he ran to meet him, and
related, with vehement gesticulations, how the girl had thrown herself
into the peasant's arms.
And how did you know that? asked Numa, coldly.
I saw them through the window.
And how dared you look through my window? Did I not forbid you?
Down on your knees instantly, and pray!
The Wallachian fell on his knees, and clasped his hands.
Rebel! you deserve the punishment of death for having disobeyed my
commands; and if you ever dare to open your lips on the subject, depend
upon it, you shall not escape! And with these words, he strode away,
leaving the astonished informer on his knees, in which posture he
remained for some time afterwards, not daring to raise his head until
the Decurio's steps had died away.
As Numa entered the house, the lovers hastened to meet him. For an
instant or two he stood at the threshold, regarding the young man with
a look of silent reproach. Why did you come so late? he asked.
Imre held out his hand, but the Decurio did not accept it.
The blood of your family is on my hand, he whispered. You have
let dishonour come on me, and mourning on yourself.
The young man's head sank on his breast in silent anguish.
Take his hand, said Jolanka, in her low, sweet accents; and then,
turning to Imre, He saved your lifehe saved us both, and he will
rescue our family too.
Imre looked at her in astonishment.
The Decurio seized his arm, and drew him aside. She does not know
that they are dead, he whispered; she was not with them, and knows
nothing of their fate; and I have consoled her with the idea that they
are all prisoners. She must never know the horrors of that fearful
But sooner or later she will hear it.
Never! you must leave the place and the kingdom. You must go to
My way lies towards Hungary.
You must not think of it. Evil days await that country; your
prophets do not see them, but I know, and see them clearly. Go to
Turkey; I will give you letters by which you may pass in security
through Wallachia and Moldavia; and here is a purse of golddo not
scruple to accept it, for it is your own, it belonged to them.
Promise me, for her sake, he continued earnestly, pointing to Jolanka,
that you will not go to Hungary.
Imre hesitated. I cannot promise what I am not sure I shall fulfil;
but I shall remember your advice.
Numa took the hands of the two lovers, and, gazing long and
earnestly on their faces, he said, in a voice of deep feeling, You
love one another?
They pressed his hand in silence.
You will be happyyou will forget your misfortunes: God bless and
guide you on your way! Take these letters, and keep the direct road to
Brasso, by the Saxon-land. You will find free passage
everywhere, and never look behind until the last pinnacles of the snowy
mountains are beyond your sight. Go! we will not take leave, not a
wordlet us forget each other!
[Footnote 25: Brasso, or Kronstadt, a town in the south-east of
Transylvania, on the frontiers of Wallachia.]
[Footnote 26: A district inhabited by a colony of Saxons.]
The Decurio watched the lovers till they were out of sight; and
called to them, even when they could hear him no longer, Do not go
He then entered his house. The prayer-book lay open as the young
girl had left it; the page was still damp with her tears. Numa's hand
trembled, as he kissed the volume fervently and placed it in his bosom.
When night came on, the Roumin lay down on his wolfskin couch, where
the golden-haired maiden, and her lover before her, had slept; but it
seemed as if they had stolen his resthe could not close his eyes
there, so he rose and went out to the porch, where he spread his rug
before the open door; but it was long ere he could sleepthere was an
unwonted feeling at his heart, something like happiness, yet
inexpressibly sad; and, buried in deep reverie, he lay with his eyes
fixed on the dark blue starry vault above him till past midnight.
Suddenly he thought he heard the report of some fire-arms at a great
distance, and at the same moment two stars sank below the horizon. Numa
thought of the travellers, and a voice seemed to whisper, They are now
* * * * *
The moon had risen high in the heavens, when the Decurio was roused
from his sleep by heavy footsteps, and five or six Wallachians, among
whom was Lupuj, stood before him.
We have brought two enemies' heads, said the latter, with a dark
look at the Decurio; pay us their worth! and, taking two heads from
his pouch, he laid them on Numa's mat.
The Wallachians watched their leader's countenance with sharp,
Numa recognised the two heads by the light of the moon. They were
those of Imre and Jolanka, but his features did not betray the
You will know them, probably, continued Lupuj. The young magnate,
who escaped us at the pass, came for the girl in your absence, and at
the same time stole your money, and, what is more, we found your
pazsura upon him also.
Who killed them? asked the Decurio, in his usual calm voice.
None of us, replied the Wallachian; as we rushed upon them, the
young magnate drew two pistols from his girdle, and shot the girl
through the head first, and himself afterwards.
Were you all there?
And more of us besides.
Go back and bring the rest. I will divide the money you have found
on them among you. Make haste; and should one of you remain behind, his
share will be divided among the rest.
The Wallachians hastened to seek their comrades with cries of joy.
The Decurio then locked the door, and, throwing himself upon the
ground beside the two heads, he kissed them an hundred times, and
sobbed like a child.
I warned you not to go towards Hungary! he said bitterly. Why did
you not hear me, unhappy children? why did you not take my word? and
he wept over his enemies' heads as if he had been their father.
He then rose, his eyes darting fire, and, shaking his terrible fist,
he cried, in a voice hoarse with rage, Czine mintye!
[Footnote 27: Czine mintye!a Wallachian term signifying
In a few hours, the Wallachians had assembled before the Decurio's
house. They were about fifty or sixty, all wild, fearful-looking men.
Numa covered the two heads with a cloth, and laid them on the bed,
after which he opened the door.
Lupuj entered last.
Lock the door, said Numa, when they were all in; we must not be
interrupted; and, making them stand in a circle, he looked round at
them all, one by one.
Are you all here? he asked at last.
Not one is absent.
Do you consider yourselves all equally deserving of sharing the
All of us.
It was you, he continued, turning to Lupuj, who struck down the
And you who pierced the magnate with a spike?
You are right, leader.
And you really killed all the women in the castle? turning to a
With my own hand.
And one and all of you can boast of having massacred, and
plundered, and set on fire?
All! all! they cried, striking their breasts.
Do not lie before Heaven. See! your wives are listening at the
window to what you say, and will betray you if you do not speak the
We speak truth!
It is well! said the leader, as he calmly approached the bed; and,
seating himself on it, uncovered the two heads and placed them on his
knees. Where did you put their bodies? he asked.
We cut them in pieces, and strewed them on the highroad.
There was a short silence. Numa's breathing became more and more
oppressed, and his large chest heaved convulsively. Have you prayed
yet? he asked, in an altered voice.
Not yet, leader. What should we pray for? said Lupuj.
Fall down on your knees and pray, for this is the last morning
which will dawn on any of you again.
Are you in your senses, leader? What are you going to do?
I am going to purge the Roumin nation of a set of ruthless
murderers and brigands. Miserable wretches! instead of glory, you have
brought dishonour and disgrace upon our arms wherever you have
appeared. While the brave fought on the field of battle, you
slaughtered their wives and children; while they risked their lives
before the cannon's mouth, you attacked the houses of the sleepers, and
robbed and massacred the helpless and the innocent. Fall down on your
knees and pray for your souls, for the angel of death stands over you,
to blot out your memory from among the Roumin people!
The last words were pronounced in a fearful tone. Numa was no longer
the cold, unmoved statue he had hitherto appeared; he was like a fiery
genius of wrath, whose very breath was destruction.
The Wallachians fell upon their knees in silent awe, while the
women, who had been standing outside, rushed shrieking down the rocks.
The Decurio drew a pistol from his breast, and approached the cask
With a fearful howl, they rushed upon himthe shriek of despair was
heard for an instant, then a terrible explosion, which caused the rocks
to tremble, while the flame rose with a momentary flash amidst clouds
of smoke and dust, scaring the beasts of the forest, and scattering
stones and beams, and hundreds of dismembered limbs, far through the
valley, and over the houses of the terrified inhabitants!
When the smoke had dissipated, a heap of ruins stood in the place of
* * * * *
The sun arose and smiled upon the earth, which was strewed with the
last leaves of autumn, but where were those who had assembled at the
spring-time of the year?
The evening breeze whispered mournfully through the ruined walls,
and strewed the faded leaves upon eleven grassy mounds!
* * * * *
The pen trembles in my handmy heart sickens at the recital of such
Would that I could believe it an imaginationthe ghastly horror of
a fevered brain!
Would that I could bid my gentle readers check the falling tear, or
tell them: Start not with horror, it is but romancethe creation of
some fearful dreamlet us awake, and see it no more!
There are as yet no institutions in our country for those unhappy
beings in whose minds the image and likeness to their Divine original
has been destroyed. Hence every town and village in Hungary has its
lunatic or idiot, familiar to everybody, from the child to the old man,
who often remembers him from his childhoodfor such unhappy
persons generally live a long time.
They are looked upon as public orphans by the people, and are
allowed to wander about as their innocent inclinations may suggest;
seeking wild-flowers in the lonely woods, singing through the streets,
lying abroad in the sun, or roaming by moonlight; and none wish to
deprive them of the blessed free air, to check their strange gibberish,
or their love for the pathless woods and the mysterious moon. They are
sure to find good souls, who feed them when they are hungry, and clothe
them when they are in want, or give them shelter at the close of day,
to continue their ceaseless pilgrimage next morning. And when the power
of darkness comes, and they run through the streets, or shout up at the
windows, they are merely greeted with jo bolond (good fool), or some
such familiar expression; but none try to silence or confine them, for
it is known that silence and confinement are torment to a fatuous
Some are born thusperhaps they are happy; but for those
whose countenances were once as bright and intelligent as any other,
what chords have been rent asunder in the heart, what sudden revolution
has overturned the mind, that the soul should no longer know itself!
Some retain a few words from the memory of the past, and those who hear
the strange sentence only shake their heads, and exclaim, Poor fool!
little knowing what a world of grief, what a tale of ruined hope and
withered life, lies concealed in these few unintelligible words!
A few years ago, I spent some time in the county of Csongrad, a
very beautiful and populous district, where I had many opportunities of
mixing with the peasants and farmers of the country. In this district
the farmers, however wealthy, bear the name of peasant, and still
retain their simple costume, the linen kontos, and the
[Footnote 28: In the east of Hungary.]
[Footnote 29: Kontos, short Hungarian coat.]
[Footnote 30: Brenda, the cloak bordered with fur.]
At the house of one of these worthy peasants in particular, I was a
frequent visitor; his simple but vigorous mind, and the wit and
pertinence of his remarks, often entertained me. I partook of his
hospitality at all their family fêtesthe vintage, kukoricza
gathering, and birthdays; and indeed the good people would have
taken it amiss had I remained behind.
[Footnote 31: Kukoricza gathering, the cutting of the maize or
Indian corna great fête in Hungary, like the vintage.]
On one occasion I happened to enter as they were baking, and was
received in the kitchen, where the wife, a rosy-faced, buxom young
woman, was standing beside the stove superintending the motions of five
or six servants, though she herself was more busy than any, with her
own hands kneading the loaves, and tossing them on the baking-shovel.
The husband stood there too, under pretence of lighting his pipe, but
in reality for no other purpose than to tease his wife, who, during the
important affair, scolded everybody who did not move as quickly as she
did, which became her very well.
Already ten large bannocks, fried with goose fat, and enriched with
preserved plums, lay smoking on the hearth; these the good woman,
immediately on my entrance, began arranging in her best dishes, and
offered to me with a welcome smile, her husband assuring me that she
had baked them herself, and adding something about a certain wine which
was particularly good to drink after them.
In the midst of all this work, during which Mistress Kata several
times applied the long handle of the baking tongs to the shoulders of
such as did not bestir themselves quickly enough to please her, the
door was softly pushed open, and the figure of a very old and
shrivelled woman appeared on the threshold; at first she only put in
her head, and looked around with a ghastly and vacant smile, caressing
the dogs, which ran up to her, and speaking to them as if they were the
dearest friends she had in the house; she then slowly advanced into the
room, pausing every now and then, as if waiting to be invited, and
again taking courage to proceed.
Nobody seemed to notice her except myself; they were either too much
engaged, or the fearful-looking creature who advanced towards them was
too familiar a sight to strike them as she did me, who saw her for the
Her figure was so bent and shrivelled that she did not appear to be
more than four feet high; her head was uncovered, and a mass of
perfectly white hair hung in a long plait down her back, as young girls
used to wear it. The face was furrowed by a thousand wrinkles, and the
vacant and half-closed eyes seemed ever gazing on the same spot, while
her lips were distended in a continual unearthly smile, while every now
and then she made an idiotic motion with her head; her petticoat and
apron were composed of bright-coloured rags sewed together; in one hand
she carried a large bunch of wild-flowers and weeds, and in the other
two billets of wood.
On seeing a stranger, she endeavoured, with an odd and embarrassed
naïveté, to conceal her face behind her large nosegay; and,
shuffling up to Mistress Kata, who had just placed her last loaf on the
baking-shovel, she tapped her on the shoulder with the flowers,
exclaiming, with a weird laugh, Hühü! Mistress Aunt, here I am, you
That's right, Marcsa, said Mistress Kata; I was just expecting
you,don't you see?
Hühü!I have brought you some beautiful flowers to plant; then I
heard you were baking, and I have brought wood, and she placed the
billets in Mistress Kate's arms.
Now, you see, if you had not brought me this, we could not have
kept up the fire. Well, will you have a bannock?
Hühü! that I will, said the old woman, stretching out her
There, noweat it, said Mistress Kata, handing her a large cake.
But you must eat it before me.
Hühü! I will take it to Joska bacsi!
Joska bacsi doesn't want it. Joska bacsi has sent to say that you
are to eat it yourself.
Really! did he say that? asked the old woman; and then, with a
deep sigh, she began to swallow the bannock. She did not bite it, not
having wherewithal, but pushed the pieces into her mouth and swallowed
them, heaving a deep sigh at every mouthful; and, when she thought
nobody was observing her, she hastily concealed the remainder in her
apron, and looked round in great glee at having succeeded so cleverly.
What will she do with the piece she has hidden? I asked Mistress
She keeps it, poor fool, for Joska bacsi!
On hearing Joska bacsi mentioned, the old woman looked eagerly up,
and asked, What does Joska bacsi say?
He says you must count how many poppy-seeds there are in that
plate, said one of the maids, laughing.
[Footnote 32: Poppy-seeds are much used in Hungary, in bread,
puddings, cakes, &c.,a favourite ingredient worked up into crust for
The old woman rose without a word, and, approaching the plate, began
eagerly counting the seeds grain by grain.
Why do you trifle with her? said I, pitying the poor, witless
creature; while Mistress Kata came forward and took hold of her arm.
Leave it alone, good Marcsa; Erzsi is telling a storythat was not
what Joska bacsi said.
But the poor idiot would not leave off counting till Kata said,
pointing to me, and making a sign that I should acquiesce, Look here,
Marcsa; this gentleman has just come from Joska bacsi, and he has
brought a message from him that you should go home and remain quiet,
and not wander so much about the Theissdid he not, sir?
I of course assented, on which the idiot shuffled joyfully up to me,
and, taking my hand, looked long into my face with her fearful, vacant
eyes, and then said coaxingly, Hühü! I do think he is almost as
beautiful a lad as my own Joska bacsi!
This was very flattering, though I would have been better pleased
had this hapless creature not gazed upon me thus, with her fixed and
witless eyes, and hastily taking a piece of silver out of my pocket, I
offered it to her.
Idiots are always fond of money, and as soon as I had put the coin
into her hand, she immediately wished everybody good-night, and set off
in great haste.
Well, there's something more for Joska bacsi, said Mistress Kata,
Howhow? I eagerly asked, my curiosity being much excited.
She will throw it into the Theiss where the water is deepest.
Whatever she gets that she can give to Joska bacsi, all goes into the
And who is this Joska bacsi?
Nobody at all: dear heart! such a creature never existed on earth.
It is only a fancy, such as all idiots have.
And was she always mad?
At these words an old peasant, who had been sitting in the
chimney-corner, and silently observing us, exclaimed, No, sir, that
she was not.
Well, I have never seen her otherwise, since I remember anything,
said Mistress Kata.
You are not yet thirty years old, Mistress, and this happened long
before your birth.
Do you know something about her, then? I asked, turning with
interest to the old man.
He know, indeed! said Mistress Kata scornfully; he just likes to
tell stories, when he can find a fool who will listen to him. But don't
be taken in, young gentleman, take my word for it.
I paid no attention, however, to Mistress Kata's warning, and
questioned the old man further: Perhaps it was love that drove this
poor woman mad?
Love, indeed!what nonsense! cried Mistress Kata; as if a
peasant would go mad for love! Bless your soul! only great folks can do
thatpeasants have something else to do.
And were you not yourself madly in love with me, eh? interrupted
her husband, putting his arm round her waist.
Get along! cried his wife, striking his hand and blushing to the
eyes; I'd like to know for what?
The old peasant meanwhile pulled my cloak, and whispered, I don't
like speaking here, sir, for they only laugh at me; but if you would
like to hear, come this evening. I will be standing in the porch, and
there I can tell you. It is a sad story enough, and may interest you to
Mistress Kata reverted frequently to the subject, exclaiming ever
and anon, as the bread baked, and she took each loaf out of the oven
and turned up its shining crust, Well, that is an idea!go mad for
love of you, forsooth, as if you were worth going mad for!
I did not forget my evening tryst, and found the old man in the
porch. I greeted him with Adjon Isten, and placed myself beside
him on the bench.
[Footnote 33: Adjon Isten, God givean abbreviation for, God
give good day, &c.]
The old man returned my salutation, and, emptying his pipe, began
striking fire with a flint. Permit me, sir, to light my pipe again;
for I cannot now think much unless I see the smoke before me; then,
drawing his cap far over his brow, he began his tale:
Nobody remembers anything about it now, for full sixty years have
passed since it happened; I was myself a barefooted boy, and it is only
a wonder that I have not forgotten it too. That poor idiot whom you saw
there, that wrinkled old creature, was then a beautiful young girl, and
that Joska bacsi of whom she always speaks wasmy own brother! There
was not a handsomer pair among all the peasants than those two; I have
seen many a rising generation since, but never any like them! Our
parents were mutually sponsors. Marcsa's mother held my brother and me
at our baptism, and my mother held Marcsa. We played together, we went
to school together, and to the Lord's Table on Easter Sunday. Hej! that
was a good priest who christened and catechized us; he has been long
since preaching in heaven; and the worthy chanter who instructed us
too, is up striking time among the angels!
The lad and the young girl had been so attached from their
childhood, that they never dreamed they could live otherwise than
together. Our mother always called Marcsa her little daughter-in-law;
and when she and my brother were each nineteen years old, their parents
decided that if God pleased to preserve us all till the next Carnival,
they should be married. My brother often entreated them not to wait
till the Carnival, 'for who knows,' he said, 'what may happen before
then?' and with reason did his heart misgive him, poor fellow! for at
the vintage Marcsa's father and ours went to the cellars to make the
wine, and the deadly air struck themwe found them both dead!
[Footnote 34: The wine-cellars, which every peasant possesses, are
not in their cottages, but out in their vineyards; it frequently
happens that there is a malaria in the vaults, which is certain death
to any who remain in them above a certain time.]
The mourning was very great in both housesthe two fathers cut off
at one stroke; but in Marcsa's house the distress was still greater
than in ours, for the old man, having been sacristan, had been
intrusted with certain sums, of which two hundred florins were missing
after his death. Where he had put them, or what had become of them, was
never known, for death had struck him too suddenly. The reverend
gentlemen who examined the accounts had so much consideration for the
poor widow, that they did not bring the affair to light, and even
promised to wait a whole year, during which time the family must
endeavour to make up the sum, as after that period it could no longer
be kept secret.
Our mother was much distressed when she heard of this affair, and
there was no more said of the carnival wedding: she was a poor but an
honest woman, and how could she allow her son to marry the daughter of
a man in whose hands the public money had been lost, and whose goods
would probably be sold at the end of a year to repay the scandalous
debt? The young lovers cried and lamented loudly, but it was all in
vain; my mother said if the sum should be restored within a year she
would receive the girl, but never otherwise. She prohibited my brother
from holding personal intercourse with Marcsa during that entire
period; and in order that he might keep his word the more easily, she
bound him apprentice to a Theiss miller, and thenthe water parted
Meanwhile, Marcsa's mother very soon died of grief and care, and
the girl was left alone. But love wrought wonders in her; and when the
poor girl had not a creature in the world to help her, she came over to
our mother and said: 'You will not allow your son to marry me unless my
father's debt be replacedgood, I have still a whole year, and I will
work day and night; I will endure hunger, fatigueeverything, but I
will earn the money.'
And then she began to put her promise into execution.
Oh, sir! you do not know what a great sum two hundred florins is
for a poor peasant, who has to earn it all by hard and honest labour,
the work of his hands and the sweat of his brow, and to collect it
penny by penny.
From this day forward, the good girl was scarcely ever seen away
from her work. All through the winter, she sat for ever at her wheel,
spinning a yarn like silk, which she wove herself; there was no linen
like hers in the village, as I have heard the old folks say. She looked
after the poultry in the morning, and carried the fowls and eggs
herself to market. There was a little bit of a garden behind the house,
where she kept flowers and vegetables; and earned more by it than many
who had four times as much ground. In summer she joined the reapers,
and all that she got for her work she turned into moneyfruit, or
poultry, or little sucking pigs. Throughout that blessed year, sir,
nobody ever saw smoke arise from her chimney: a bit of dry bread was
all her daily sustenance; and yet the Lord took such good care of her,
that not only her beauty did not diminish, but she looked as healthy
and as rosy as if she were living on milk and butter. Love kept the
spirit in her, poor girl!
My brother was not allowed to go to her, but I was the messenger
between them. Often, in the fine summer evenings, when I was down at
the mill with my brother, he would take his flute and play those
beautiful melodies, which none could do better than he; and the girls
on the other side, who were filling their pitchers in the stream, or
standing with their white feet in the water, washing linen, would hear
the air, and join in the chorus. But my brother only heard one voice,
and that was the sweetest and the saddest I ever listened to, and
brought tears into the eyes of every one who heard it: you could have
recognised her voice among a thousand.
Sometimes his master gave my brother leave of absence for an hour
or two, and those were happy days for Joska: he would send me to bid
Marcsa come down in the evening toward the Willow Island. This was a
little sandbank covered with willow-trees, about three or four fathoms
from the shore. Hither would my brother also come in his little boat,
while his true-love sat opposite to him upon the shore, and there would
they converse till morning across the streamthus satisfying their own
hearts, and obeying my mother's orders. They met, and yet were
On this footing things remained until the vintage. Marcsa was
considered not only the prettiest, but the best girl in the village.
The new wine was not yet clear, when one morning the good girl came
into my mother's, and counted out two hundred florins on the large oak
tableall in good huszasok, not one small piece was wantingand
begged my mother to take them with her to the reverend gentlemen, who
gave a sealed receipt for the amount. None but ourselves ever knew that
it was all our pretty Marcsa's hard earnings.
[Footnote 35: Huszasa silver piece containing twenty
kreutzers, worth eightpence.]
On returning, my mother took Marcsa home with her, and plaited her
long hair with pretty rainbow-coloured ribbons, put a string of garnets
round her neck, and a pair of fine shoes on her little feet; and all
gaily dressed, she took hernone of us knew whither.
I followed them, however, to the Theiss, when my mother bade me go
and ask the ferryman to take us across to the mill, where my brother
was serving; and we all three sat down in the boat.
Even now I think I see the beautiful girl: it seems as it were but
yesterday that she sat in the boat before me by my mother's side,
blushing modestly, her sparkling eyes cast down. Her heart told her
whither we were going.
My brother recognised us from a distance, and seeing that we were
rowing towards him, and his beloved sitting by his mother's side and on
her right hand, he rushed joyfully down to his boat, and pushing it
off, leaped in and rowed to meet us.
When he came up to us, and he and his bride raised their eyes
towards each other, the poor things scarcely knew what they were about
for joythey looked as if they could have flown, to rush the sooner
into one another's arms. Joska guided his boat alongside of ours that
we might step in, and coming to the bow, he stretched out his arms to
Marcsa, who trembled like the delibab with joy and emotion.
[Footnote 36: The mirage, or Fata Morgana, frequently seen on
the puszta, and which sometimes appears to tremble like a reflection in
a troubled stream. The traveller is sometimes deceived by seeing a
village or castle before him, which trembles and vanishes by degrees as
At that moment the boat overbalanced, and my brother suddenly fell
between the two boats, and disappeared from our sight.
The unhappy bride, who had stretched out her arms to the bridegroom
for whom she had endured so much and worked so hard, uttered a fearful
cry, and threw herself after him into the Theiss.
My poor mother and I wrung our hands, and called for help, which
brought out the millers from the other side, who hastened down to their
boats, and put off towards us: in a short time they took up Marcsa,
whose wide dress floated on the surface; but they could not find my
brother, and we never saw anything more of him from that hour, except
his wreathed bonnet floating on the water.
[Footnote 37: The Hungarian peasants in some districts wear small
pointed hats, in form like the Tyrolian, always adorned with a wreath
Three days afterwards, my mother was struck with apoplexy, and the
poor bride lay insensible in a violent fever. For six weeks she
continued more dead than alive; and when at last she was able to rise,
her beauty was all goneyou could scarcely have recognised her as the
For some time we only remarked that she was very sad and
thoughtful, and would sit all day without speaking a word; but by and
bye, to our astonishment, she would go down to the river, and when the
miller's boys came over in their boats, would ask, 'What news from
At first we thought this was still only the effect of fever,for
during her illness she had raved incessantly of Joska; but as time wore
on, and she was always doing stranger things, our eyes began to open to
the melancholy truth. One day she went home, and telling us she was
going to arrange her house, that it might be in order when Joska bacsi
came, she began turning up all the chairs and tables, whitewashed the
house, killed her little poultry one after the other, and then began
cooking and baking to prepare for the wedding. All at once, however,
she became quite distracted: knew no person by name, would speak aloud
in the church, and pray and sing along the roads; she would do no work,
and was indeed quite incapableentangled all her yarn, saying she
would get more money for it if in that condition, and set out empty
egg-shells for market. At last, the wandering mania came upon her. One
evening she disappeared from her house; and after searching everywhere
for five days, we found her among high reeds by the river's sideher
face disfigured, and her clothes all torn. Since that time, the poor
creature has remained insane. Her beauty had passed away like the wind,
and in four years she was the broken-down old woman you now see her,
and that was full sixty years ago.
Every one has now forgotten the event, for few are living who
witnessed it; and the oldest man remembers her since his childhood as
Crazy Marcsa, who minds neither cold nor hunger, fasts for days
together and eats whatever is placed before her, collects every gaudy
rag and sews it on her dress, calls old and young nene (elder
sister), and asks but one question'What news from Joska bacsi?'
The folks laugh at her, but none know that her bridegroom lies
below the Tisza water; and the merry girls in the spinning-rooms have
little thought, when they make fun of Marcsa, that the wrinkled and
fearful old creature was once as gay and smilingay, and prettier far
than any of themselves. Such is life, good sir!
The old man emptied his pipe: it was getting late. I thanked him for
the tale, and pressing his hand, returned slowly and thoughtfully home.
Strange, that a peasant should go mad for love! Only great folks
can do that!
I heard another case, in Bekes, of an idiot who was to all
appearance a very quiet and industrious man. One could scarcely
perceive any symptoms of insanity about him; but if the name Gyuri
(George) were uttered in his hearing, he would start upwhether he was
eating or working, or from whatever his employment might bedash down
his spoon or his saw, and run without stopping till he fell down from
Mischievous boys would sometimes make him run thus for their
senseless amusement; at other times, the name, unguardedly dropped,
would send him rushing to and fro: but otherwise, he was the quietest,
gentlest creature in the world, and one might converse with him as with
any other person.
His story was as follows:
It happened once, that on a bright December day he and another
shepherd boy had gone out to the plains with their flocks. It was a
remarkably fine winter; there had been no frost as yet, and the whole
plain was as green, and the sun as warm, as on a day in spring.
The two boys had driven their sheep to a great distance, when all at
once, towards evening, a sharp and biting wind arose from the north. In
an hour the weather had changed, and the horizon was overcast with
heavy dark-blue clouds, which seemed angrily contending with the north
wind. The ravens, those avant-couriers of the snowstorm, assembled in
vast flocks, mingling their cries with the howling of the wind.
The shepherd boys hastily assembled their sheep, and began to drive
them home. Scarcely had they proceeded a few hundred yards, however,
when the horizon had completely darkened, the snow fell thickly, driven
about by the wind, and in a few moments the path which guided them was
covered. Meanwhile, the cold had sensibly increased, the ground was
soon frozen quite hard, and the boys had lost all traces of their
homeward waythey ran hither and thither, listening, and looking
around them. No glimmering light was to be seen, nor the barking of a
dog to be heard. Night had come on, and they had strayed into the
What was to be done? It was impossible to drive the sheep farther,
for they crowded all in a heap, with their heads together.
We will do like the sheep, said the herd-boys; and spreading their
Izurok upon the ground, they lay down close to one another,
endeavouring by the heat of their bodies to keep out the frost: and
thus, with their arms clasped tightly round each other, they awaited
the long stormy night, during which the snow never ceased an instant,
and soon covered them both.
[Footnote 38: The peasant's mantle of coarse white flannel.]
Pistaso one of them was calledcould not close his eyes all
night: he heard the cries of the ravens incessantly above his head, and
the roaring of the storm, which seemed hushed at intervals only to
burst out more furiously, like the wrath of some huge monster, while
the chill blast seemed to pierce him through, and turn his blood to
ice. But his comrade Gyuri slept soundly, although he continually
called in his ear in order to awake him; for he feared to listen to his
heavy snoring, and to be alone awake. At length the sleeper ceased to
snore, and breathed quietly for a time, till by degrees the breathing
too became fainter and fainter.
When at last the fearful night had passed, and the clouds of snow
had cleared away, and day began to break upon the hoary world, Pista
tried to rise and wake his companion, who was still sound asleep, and
kept his arms clasped tightly round his neck; but all his exertions
could not wake him.
Gyuri, awake! he cried, shaking the sleeper; but Gyuri did not
Gyuri, awake! he repeated in terror; but Gyuri's sleep was an
eternal onethe boy was frozen.
When Pista saw that his comrade was dead, he tried in vain to
release himself from his grasp; but the stiff dead arms were clasped so
tightly round his neck, it was impossible to extricate them.
The terrified boy, finding himself face to face with the dead, who
held him with such irresistible power in his fearful embrace, while the
glazed and motionless eyes looked straight into his own, struggled
fearfully through the snow, and dashed into the rushes, where the
villagers who had come out to search for them most providentially found
him, still crying outGyuri, awake! Gyuri, let me go!
They freed him with great difficulty from his companion's arms, but
terror had deprived him of reason from that hour.
He never does any harm, or quarrels with anybody; and he speaks
sensibly and quietly, unless his comrade's name is mentioned, when he
will take to his heels and run as long as he has breath in his body.
* * * * *
Mental derangement does not always assume a melancholy form: here
and there we meet with most grotesque examples, whose peculiar slyness
and original ideas are most amusing. Outwardly they are always gay: who
may know what passes within?
We had an instance of the latter species of madness in Transylvania.
Boho Boris (silly Barbara) was known through the whole district.
She was never seen for one week in the same place, but wandered
continually about; her whole travelling apparatus consisting of a
guitar, which she slung around her neck, and went singing away to the
next neighbour or the nearest town.
She found her table always covered; for she was quite at home in
every gentleman's house, never waiting to be invited, and ordered all
the servants about whether they would or not. Her apparel seemed to
grow like the flowers of the meadow, without the assistance of tailors
or marchandes de modes,not that petticoats and ruffles
actually sprang out of the earth on her account, but whenever she was
tired of any article of apparel, or did not fancy wearing it longer,
she would doff it at the first gentleman's house she came to, and put
on a dress belonging to the lady of the mansion, declaring with the
utmost gravity that it suited her very well; and the Transylvanian
ladies were too generous not to leave her in her confidence, and in
undisturbed possession of the new dress.
Once a great lady, Countess N, pitying poor Boris's uncertain
mode of life, invited her to her castle, promising to keep her as long
as she lived.
Now this good lady had one or two little peculiarities. In the first
place, she was very sentimental, and always dreaming of some hero of
romance; secondly, she was extremely sensitive, and if any person
unmercifully wounded her tender heart, she was always sure to swoon
away; and thirdly, having swooned away, she always waited till the
whole household had assembled round her, and could not be brought to
herself as long as one member of it failed.
Boho Biri being constantly with the Countess, had the full benefit
of her eccentricities. This, however, did not seem to annoy her in the
least: when the lady spoke of her love affairs, Boris spoke of her own;
when the Countess sighed deeply, Boho Biri sighed still deeper; if the
Countess described her injuries or her bitter fate in prose, Biri
illustrated hers in verse; and when the Countess, overcome by her
emotions, fainted away on a sofa, Boho Biri fainted on another, and
always remained full half an hour longer in her swoon than the lady
herself. If it were necessary to take cramp, when the Countess had only
commenced, Boho Biri was already roaring so as to bring the whole
household to the rescue.
Finally, however, it became too much for Boris. One day, taking up
her guitar, and putting a roll in her pocket, she announced her
intention to depart.
The good lady in astonishment asked why.
Boho Biri struck an accord on her guitar, and raising herself on the
tips of her toes, she answered, with dignified composure: Two fools
are one too many in one house!
Monument of war! unhappy and deserted town! where are thy churches
and thy towersthy hospitable mansions and thy lively inhabitants?
Where are the cheerful bells, calling the people to prayer, and the
sound of music to mirth?
Alas! what a contrast from the proud fortress of former times, when
the pinnacles of many a tower or steeple were seen glistening from
afar, with their single and double crosses, their eagles and golden
There were churches in Comorn unrivalled in Hungary for their
beautiful frescoes. There was the great Universal Academy, opposite the
Reformed Church; the old County-house, crowning three streets; the
gigantic Town-hall; the great Military Hospital; the fine row of
buildings on the Danube, which gave the town the air of a great city;
the High Street, with its quaint edifices; the Calvary, and the
romantic promenade in the centre of the town.
[Footnote 39: In most Roman Catholic towns abroad, there is what is
called a Calvary hill, with its fourteen stations of our Lord,
and the crucifixion and chapel crowning the hill, whither the devout
make little pilgrimages, and where they perform their devotions.]
In the midst of the Danube there is a little islandwhoever has
seen it in former days, may have an idea of paradise! On crossing the
bridge which united it to the town, an alley of gigantic palm-pines
extended from one end of the island to the other, through which the
rays of the sun gleamed like a golden network. The island was
beautifully laid out in gardens, which furnished the town with fruit.
In summer, the gay population held many a fête here.
Then in winter, when the cold confined the inhabitants to the town,
what merriment and cheerfulness were to be seen everywhere! The young
men of the district assembled for the Christmas tree and the Carnival
festivities. Every mansion was open, and its hospitable landlord ready
to receive alike rich and poor.
On Sundays and holidays, as soon as the early bells began to toll, a
serious and well-conditioned population were seen crowding to the
churchesthe women in silken dresses, the men in rich pelisses
fastened with heavy golden clasps; and when an offering was wanting,
none were found remiss. At one oration by a popular preacher, the
magnates deposited their jewelled clasps, buttons, and gold chains, in
heaps at the threshold of the church; and with this gift the vast
school was built which stood opposite the Reformed Church.
All this wasand is no more! Two-thirds of the edifices have
been reduced to ashes; three churchesamong them the double-towered
one with the fine frescoes, the Town-hall, the County-house, the
Hospital, the High Street, the Danube row, and the entire square, with
more than a thousand houses, have been burnt to the ground! What
remained was battered to pieces by the balls, and destroyed by the
inundation and the ice in the following spring.
The beautiful island was laid waste, the trees cut down, and the
bridge destroyed! Where are the joyous scenes of the past, the pleasant
intercourse, and the gay society? The carnival music and the holiday
bells are mute; the streets are empty, the houses roofless, and the
* * * * *
It was a fearful nightraining, freezing, and blowing hard, while
the shells were bursting over the town, and whistling like wingless
demons through the midnight air. The congreve rocket ascended in its
serpentine flight, shaking its fiery tail; while the heavy bomb rose
higher and higher, trembling with the fire within, till, suddenly
turning, it fell to the earth with a fearful crash, or, bursting in the
air, scattered its various fragments far and wide upon the roofs below.
The szurok koszorus descended like falling meteors, while here
and there a fiery red ball darted up between them, like a star of
destruction rising from hell. It seemed indeed as if the infernal
regions had risen against heaven, and were venting their fury against
the angels,bringing down hosts of stars with the voice of thunder.
[Footnote 40: Globes covered with tar, and filled with combustible
Several houses on which the bombs descended had taken fire, and the
wind carrying the sparks from roof to roof, a church, which had
hitherto escaped destruction, was soon enveloped in flames. It was the
Reformed Church. Some zealous partisans of this faith endeavoured to
rescue their church; but they were few, and, after great exertions,
amidst showers of balls, which whistled incessantly around, they
succeeded at last in preventing the fire extending further, but there
were not enough of hands to save the churchthe flames had already
reached the tower.
* * * * *
The light of the burning church gleamed far through the darkness on
a troop of horsemen, who were hastening towards the fortress. They were
hussars; their leader was a short, strong-built man, with light-brown
hair and a ruddy complexion, which was heightened by the glare of the
fire. His lips were compressed, and his eye flashed as he pointed
towards the burning tower, and redoubled his speed. On reaching the
Danube they were promptly challenged by the sentinel; and the leader,
snatching a paper from his bosom, presented it to the officer on guard,
who, after a hasty glance, saluted the stranger respectfully, and
suffered the troop to pass across into the town.
At the extremity of the street which leads to the Vag, and where
there was least danger to be apprehended from the enemy's battery,
their progress was arrested by a crowd of men, principally officers of
the national guard, who were standing gazing on the fire.
[Footnote 41: Comorn is built at the junction of the Danube and the
The leader of the troop rode up to them, and inquired, in a voice of
stern command, what their business was in that quarter.
Who are you, sir? replied a stout gentleman, with a large beard
and a gold-braided pelisse, in a tone of offended dignity.
It was easy to judge by his appearance that he was one of those
representative dignitaries, ever jealous of their authority before the
My name is Richard Guyon! replied the stranger; henceforward
commander of this fort. I ask again, gentlemen, what do you want here?
At the mention of this name, some voices among the crowd cried,
I don't want Eljens, cried Guyon, but deeds! Why are none of you
assisting to extinguish the fire?
I beg your pardon, General, replied the municipal major
sheepishly, assuming a parliamentary attitude before the commander,
but really the balls are flying so thickly in that direction, it would
be only tempting Providence and throwing away lives in vain.
The soldier's place is where the balls are flyingmove on,
Excuse me, General, probably you have not witnessed it; but really
the enemy are firing in such an unloyal manner, not only bombs of a
hundred and sixty pounds' weight, and shells which burst in every
direction, but also grenades, and fiery balls of every description,
which are all directed against those burning houses. The worthy major
endeavoured to introduce as much rhetoric as possible into his excuses.
Will you go, sir, or will you not? cried the General, cutting
short his oration, and drawing a pistol from his saddle bow, he
deliberately pointed it at the forehead of the argumentative major,
indicating that his present position was as dangerous as the one he
dreaded in the midst of bombs and fiery balls.
Mercy! he stammered; I only wished to express my humble opinion.
I am not used to many words. In the hour of danger, I command my
men to follow, not to precede me; whoever has any feeling
of honour has heard my words; and, dashing his spurs into his horse,
he galloped forward.
In a few seconds the place was emptynot a man remained behind. An
hour afterwards, thousands were eagerly working to extinguish the fire.
The commander himself, foremost in the danger, seemed to be everywhere
at once; wherever the balls flew thickest and the fire raged most
furiously, his voice was heard exciting and encouraging his men. Never
mind the balls, my lads, they never strike those who do not fear them.
At that instant the aide-de-camp at his side was struck down by a
twenty-four pounder. The General, without being discouraged by this
mal-à-propos sequel to his words, only addedOr when they do, it
is a glorious death!
A universal Eljen! rose above the thunder of the cannon and the
howling of the elements.
On, lads! save the spire! continued the General.
The bells of the tower had already fallen, one by one, into the
church, but the fire was visibly decreasing, and the people redoubled
their exertions, working hard until the morning. Their efforts were
crowned with success; and the tower, with its great metal spire, stands
to this day; thanks to the energy and courage of the hero of
[Footnote 42: In Upper Hungary, where Guyon obtained a victory.]
* * * * *
The day following, the principal officers of the fort hastened to
present themselves to their commander. He reproached them for their
negligence in allowing the fortress to be bombarded by troops which
were scarcely more than the garrison of the place, and quietly
suffering them to place their batteries on the hill opposite, from
whence they fired incessantly into the town. The officers retired in
great confusion, promising their commander that the evil should soon be
The town dignitaries next made their appearance, to pay their
respects to the new governora most honourable set of periwigged
worthies dating from 1790. The General received them graciously, and
invited all those who had called on him to dinner, assuring them, in
broken Hungarian, that they should have capital entertainment.
Everybody was charmed with the condescension and affability of the
future commander; although, It must be allowed, they added, he
treats the Magyar language with as little mercy as he does our
If our vis-à-vis would only give us peace for a time,
remarked the above-mentioned municipal major, who, in consideration of
his official dignity, was desirous of keeping on good terms with the
commander. The rest of the worthy gentlemen present signified, by their
gestures, that they considered the remark not altogether unreasonable.
The major, judging by Guyon's thoughtful expression that he was duly
considering the matter, ventured to add his humble opinion, that it
might be advisable to propose a cessation of hostilities on the day of
the entertainment, in order to celebrate in peace, and with all due
honours, the arrival of their most excellent commander.
It would be useless, replied the General, calmly, for they would
not give it.
In that case, replied the major, there is a spacious hall in the
subterranean apartments of the bastions, where two hundred might dine
Indeed! replied the General.
Certainly; and plenty of room for a band of music besides.
And cannot the bombs get in there?
O dear! nonot even the hundred and sixty pounders; the vaulted
roof is strong an a rock, besides twelve feet of rock above. We can
eat, drink, and give toasts, continued the major, to our heart's
content; the band may play, and the young folk dance, without
endangering a hair of our heads!
Ah! a capital idea, truly! Perhaps you have already given fêtes
Oh, almost every day in winter; while the enemy were raising
entrenchments over our heads, and trying their best to throw shells
into the town, we were dancing quite snugly under the ramparts, and
only laughing at them through the loopholesha, ha, ha!
The major seemed to consider this an excellent joke, while the other
dignitaries were cutting wry faces, recollecting that on such occasions
but few, and those not the élite, remained without to protect
The General neither laughed nor looked displeased; he appeared
satisfied with the major's plan, and dismissed the deputation,
promising them that the next day's entertainment should be the most
agreeable they had ever yet partaken of.
* * * * *
At the hour appointed, a large party, in gala costumes and with
holiday demeanour, assembled in the pavilion of the fort.
The General received his guests with his usual cordiality, and, as
soon as the attendants announced that the banquet was prepared, he
invited them to accompany him thither.
It was a glorious spring evening. The soldiers greeted the brilliant
cortège with loud Eljens! as they passed the gates of the castle.
Among the guests was our bearded major, who took the utmost pains to
insinuate himself into the good graces of the General, constantly
addressing him in the most facetious manner, so that those who heard
the conversation might have supposed they were on the most intimate
Your excellency is pleased to survey the ramparts? he remarked in
the softest tone imaginable, which he had learnt as a lord-lieutenant.
I surveyed them all early this morning, replied the General; they
are in good condition.
Especially that one which your excellency was pleased to hear me
And where we are going to dine to-day, pursued the General.
He, he! indeed! The major was ready to burst with pride. I am
truly flattered, rejoiced, that my humble opinion has met with your
They had now entered the court of the old fortress. The bastion in
question, with its gigantic, massive walls, is built over the Danube.
Its roof is protected by the high walls of the fortress, which, covered
with beautiful green turf, formed the most agreeable promenade
possible. To the east of the bastion there was a small rondella, where
the former governor, Bakonyi, was in the habit of spending his leisure
hours with his friends in those good old times when people lived on
more friendly terms than they do now.
There were placed before this rondella about half a dozen tables,
sumptuously covered with superb confections and flowers, relieved by
bottles of every description.
[Footnote 43: In Hungary, as on the Continent in general, the
dessert is put down at first, to decorate the table.]
The rondella itself was tastefully decorated with evergreens and
banners of the national colours.
The approaching guests perceived these tables laid out on the top of
the bastion, with a curious sensation, unlike that which we are wont to
experience at the sight of a dinner-table under ordinary circumstances.
The major alone did not seem to take the matter into consideration,
and, turning to the entrance of the bastion tunnel, he officiously
offered his services to lead the way to the subterranean hall.
Not there! cried the General, but upon the top of the bastion! Do
you not perceive, gentlemen, our tables are prepared there?
The major attempted to smile, but his teeth chattered.
Your excellency is pleased to jest, he! he!surely the hall is far
pleasanter, and more convenient.
Are you dreaming, major? lock one's-self up this beautiful evening
in a dank hole, where scarce a ray of light enters two spans of
loophole! It would be sinning against nature; here in the open air we
shall enjoy ourselves famously!
The major would willingly have been excused such enjoyment.
And are we all to dine up there? he asked, while his chin trembled
Certainly, of course, replied the General; and perceiving it was
one of those occasions in which the word follow must be
substituted for on, he deliberately ascended the steps to the
bastion, his guests reluctantly following, more like a troop of victims
brought to unwilling martyrdom, than a festal procession approaching a
The municipal major not only relinquished his position close to the
General's ear, but actually managed to fall behindevidently evincing
an inclination to make himself scarce when the opportunity should
offer. The General's condescension, however, was so great as to seek
him out, take his arm, and lead on to the ramparts, where he engaged
him in close conversation.
What a glorious view! See how the Danube washes the walls of the
bastion! Mark the enemy's ramparts, where the great guns are pointed
towards uswhy, we can actually see into them! There stand the
howitzers, and a bomb-mortarremarkably clear atmosphere, major! See
now, an artilleryman has just come out on the ramparts; one can
distinguish his facings perfectly, even at that distance! Superb
weather, major, is it not?
It is quite certain that if the General had not forcibly retained
his man, keeping him in conversation until they sat down to dinner, the
worthy major would have slipped through his fingers like an eel; as it
was, there was no other course for him but to resign himself to his
fate, while he heartily wished that this transparent atmosphere would
give place to so dense a fog, that they should not be able to
distinguish each other across the table.
The guests had taken their places with no small uneasiness, each
eyeing his neighbour's countenance, in the vain hope of discovering
some degree of that confidence which he lacked himselfbut resignation
was the utmost that could be traced in any expression.
The General placed the major on his right hand: he was desirous of
distinguishing him in his military dress.
Meanwhile, as the dishes were served and the wine circled, the
spirits of the guests began to rise, and the clouds of uneasiness which
had darkened each brow dissipated by degrees before the inward light
which the good wine diffused. The conversation flowed more freely; some
even ventured to jest, afterwards to laugh heartily.
The unhappy major alone did not seem to partake of the universal
dissipation. He elbowed his loquacious neighbour with tears in his
eyes, trod on the feet of his vis-à-vis under the table,
accompanying these actions with an imploring gesture that they should
speak and laugh less loudly; while he himself used his knife and fork
with the utmost caution, looking every now and then over his shoulder
at the cannon, howitzers, and artillerymen oppositenow spilling the
soup down his neck, and now conveying to his ear the morsel intended
for his mouth, or biting the empty fork from which the meat had fallen,
while he sprinkled large quantities of cayenne and salt over the
confections, and finally drank the vinegar intended for the salad, to
the infinite amusement of the spectators. Even the General regarded his
victim with inward satisfaction, though it was not his custom to
express any visible emotion. He frequently recommended him one or other
excellent wine; but the major would not be persuaded to drink anything
but water, which he swallowed in large quantities, declaring that he
was exceedingly warmwhich was not improbable.
At the height of the entertainment, when the roses of good humour
bloomed on every countenance, the major summoned all his resolution,
and sidling close up to the commander, whispered in his ear: It is
very well that the besiegers are dining also at present, and therefore
have not observed us, otherwise it might be no joke if they caught a
glimpse of us.
True; the poor devils would then have to leave their dinners, and
amuse themselves firing at us.
The major would gladly have been excused such amusement.
Meanwhile, pursued the commander, we shall give them a toast;
and pouring out a glass of genuine tokay, he rose from his seat.
There was a universal silence.
Gentlemen! cried the governor, in a loud clear voice, let us
drink to the land of the Magyar!
A tremendous cheer burst from every mouth, and the guests rising,
struck their glasses together. Every idea of fear seemed banished at
the word. Three times three the cheer was repeated, with such
thundering applause that the very bastion trembled.
The poor major extended his arms in utter despair: he looked like a
man vainly endeavouring to stifle the explosion of a revolution; and to
add to his distress, scarcely had the third cheer died away, than the
military music which was concealed in the rondella struck up the
We are betrayed! we are undone! he exclaimed, throwing himself
violently back in his chair. Sir Governor, Sir Commander, now is the
moment for us to leave the place! The enemy's guns are directed towards
uswe shall have the bombs pouring upon us!
That would be only giving ourselves trouble, replied the General
coolly; and besides, I should like to see how they aim.
But I don't want to see; my life is not my own, it belongs
to my country. It is not permitted to risk it thus; the Diet would not
Set your mind at ease, my dear major; I will take the whole
responsibility of your precious life before the Diet. Meanwhile, orders
have been given that none shall quit the bastion until I go myself.
The major's anguish was not altogether without foundation; for the
music having attracted the attention of the besiegers, their cannon
began firing one by one, and several balls whistled past the revellers.
Aha! in this case we must protect ourselves, cried the General;
and without moving from his seat, he desired his attendants to prepare
This battery consisted of champagne bottles well preserved in ice,
the popping of which most ludicrously parodied the cannons of the
enemy, while the generous wine increased the good humour of the
The music continued to play one national air after another; as soon
as the first band ceased another struck up, the company joining their
voices in full chorus to the most familiar airs.
Meanwhile the bombs were falling right and left: some, splashing
into the Danube, burst at the bottom, or without extinguishing, struck
the water again and again. Others whistled past the pavilion, and burst
above it; but none as yet came near the tables.
The merry party made light of it all, crying good speed to those
which flew over their heads, offering a glass to renew their strength,
promising to let down ropes to such as fell into the moat. In short,
what they had looked upon with awe from a distance, they now considered
The poor major suffered the most exquisite pangs of terror: bobbing
his head each time a shell flew over the ramparts at the distance of a
hundred fathoms, or starting aside from the passing balls; and as often
as a bomb burst, he almost fell on his back in the most violent
Meanwhile, as the day closed, the sounds of music, as well as the
beauty of the evening, had attracted various groups of well-dressed
people to the ramparts; and notwithstanding the thundering of the
cannon, the fair sex formed no small portion of the curious, whose
desire of amusement overcame their timidity.
The moon rose brilliantly upon the landscape; and by its bewitching
light the youth abandoned themselves to the dance, with as little
thought as if the thundering around were a salute in honour of a bridal
The national dance seemed especially to please the General; and
once, when he expressed his admiration by a hearty 'bravo' at some
dexterous turn, a merry little dark-eyed sylph tripped up to him, and
succeeded in leading him forth to the Wedding of Tolnaa favourite
dance, where he allowed himself to be wheeled about through all the
mazes, performing each manoeuvre required of him with that almost
English coolness which characterized him.
A little episode now occurred, which caused a short interruption. A
grenade fell burning, almost at the feet of the General. Several of the
dancers fled, while the boldest of the party wished to pour water over
it, and others in jest proposed to cover it with a hat.
Let all remain in their places! cried the General.
At this command everybody remained stationary. Even the women
endeavoured to conceal their fear, and one or two of the girls peeped
inquisitively forward, scarcely comprehending the danger with which
they were threatened.
The bearded major, however, seemed fully alive to all the horror of
his situation; for no sooner did the grenade fall hissing among them,
than he broke at once through all constraint, and with a roar like a
bull, as if in compensation for all he had hitherto endured in silence,
rushed from the spot as if he were possessed by legion, and without
looking right or left, precipitated himself into the moat, regardless
of its height. Providentially he reached the bottom, at a depth of
four-and-twenty feet, with bones unbroken, and there lay upon his
stomach, with closed eyes, awaiting the issue of the hideous
The grenade meanwhile turned quickly round like a spinning-top on
the spot where it had fallen, the rocket flame from within describing a
bright circle round it. The bystanders breathlessly awaited the moment
of its explosion.
Suddenly it ceased turning, and the fiery circle disappeared.
Whoever is acquainted with the nature of these balls, will know, that
between the spinning round of the grenade-rocket in its flame and that
instant in whichthe spark having reached the powderit explodes,
there is an interval of a few seconds, in which the grenade stands
In this interval it was that the commander suddenly rose, and
approaching the grenade, lifted it in his hands and dashed it into the
The sudden explosion which instantly followed proved that the ball
had just been thrown in time, while the yell which immediately
succeeded seemed to indicate that the direction had not been equally
well chosen; and in truth the grenade had burst scarcely two spans from
the unlucky major, although, strange to say, with no more serious
consequence than that from that day forward he has heard with
difficulty with the right ear.
After this little bravadowhose authenticity more than one
eye-witness can guaranteethe General allowed the company to disperse;
and from that day fear seemed banished from all hearts; and grenades,
and other fiery implements, were looked upon with even greater coolness
On taking leave of his guests, the General promised them a tranquil
night, to compensate for the agitation of the day; and he was as good
as his word, for that very night he made a sally with some troops above
the Nadorvonal, and compelled the enemy to withdraw their battery.
[Footnote 44: Palatine's line.]
* * * * *
Time flies; the past is gradually forgotten, and with it the past
glory. Where are the glorious hopesthe bright dreams? All are gone.
Comorn! monument of war! deserted and unhappy town! what remains of all
thy power and glory? The blackened ruins, and the Comorn Honved
[Footnote 45: When the fortress capitulated, the officers of the
national guard were suffered to quit the country freeone of the
conditions for which they had stipulated.]
In the January of 1848 it had not yet entered the most speculative
imagination that war might break out before the year had ended. Our
humane patriots thought of anything in the world rather than of the
manufacture of gunpowder; and when, during some unusually riotous
municipal elections, one or two of our noble countrymen were shot
through the head, the papers, for several weeks afterwards, were full
of comments on the horrors of such unheard-of bloodshed.
It was about this time that the journals were much occupied with the
wonders of a certain magnetic somnambulist, who foretold various
strange things, which, to the astonishment of all who heard them,
actually came to pass.
She foretold, among other things, the ruin of Comorn! Unhappy town!
it might have been well for her if all her misfortunes had been
included in this prophecy, but alas! her fate was doomed to exceed even
this, in the direful results of the siege. Another of the prophecies of
the somnambulist was, that the country should be visited by cholera,
and that those whom it carried off would be the happiest.
When Mor (Morice) Perczel was sent as deputy to Presburg, he was
obliged to pass a night at Vacz, where he heard so much of this
marvellous somnambulist that he determined not to leave the place
without seeing her, and accordingly he got an acquaintance to escort
him in the evening to her lodging.
On entering the apartment, he beheld, by the dim light of a lamp, a
very young girl, whose extreme paleness gave her an almost supernatural
appearance; her face was thin, and her skin transparent; her eyes,
which were very large, and of a pure blue, were half closed, and her
lips and hands trembled exceedingly.
She was lying motionless in a large arm-chair; and her physician had
just entered. He had recommended the use of magnetism for the cure of
spasms at the heart, and it was now the sixth week that she had been
under the magnetic influence. She was seldom awake, but still seldomer
asleep; her usual state being something between the twoa constant
unconscious reverie, accompanied by acute sensibility to the pleasure
or pain of others, and a total absence of personal feeling. As her
physician approached, and she came within the magnetic influence, she
slowly opened her eyes, and fixed them steadfastly on his face without
moving her eyelids. When he took her hand, a cold, faint smile passed
over her countenance, and the trembling ceased; her physician then
began to stroke her face, arms, and breast, with the tips of his
fingers, at first slowly, but quickening the motion by degrees, while
he kept his eyes steadily fixed upon his patient.
The girl continued motionless; her eyelids alone seemed to contend
with the irresistible power which always gained upon her, closing by
degrees and then opening wide again, while the pupils were unusually
Her whole countenance gradually underwent a wonderful change: her
features assumed a character inexpressibly sweet and sad; she sighed
and wept, her lips parted, while a calm smile settled on them. At last,
her head sank on the cushion of her chair, and she fell asleep.
The physician now motioned to Mor Perczel to approach within the
magnetic circle. Suddenly the girl's countenance assumed an expression
of surprise and uneasiness.
Who is this? asked the physician, in a low, familiar tone.
The girl answered slowly, and with hesitation, One ofour
Perczel smiled. Perhaps in the camp of the Diet, he thought to
No, not in the Diet, replied the girl, to whom he had not
communicated his thoughts; on the field of battle!
And what fate awaits him there? asked the physician.
Let him beware of his own name!
* * * * *
Before the termination of that year, Mor Perczel was a General in
the Hungarian rebel army, had raised troops, and fought several
battles, without ever recalling the prophecy of the Vaczi girl.
It was on the 30th December that the memorable action near Mor
took place, in which the Hungarians were defeated with considerable
[Footnote 46: South-west of Pesth, in the county of
The real cause of the loss of this battle has never been clearly
proved up to the present day. It was enough, and more than enough to
Perczel, that the battle was lost, his troops scattered, his positions
occupied, his colours taken, and the gallant Zrinyi battalion, the
flower of his army, cut to pieces or taken prisoners.
When he returned to Pesth after this battle, one of the town
magistrates, ever ready with a jest, maliciously observed, Ocsem
Mor, your namesake did not receive you well.
[Footnote 47: Nephewyounger brother.]
Indeed! replied the General, without taking offence, now I
remember, that the somnambulist foretold me this just a year ago. If I
did not believe that Görgei was the cause of our losing the battle, I
should be inclined to think there had been witchcraft in it. Well, the
Germans shall keep their name's-day by and bye!
After this loss, the Hungarians were obliged to retreat from Pesth.
The Government and treasury were removed to Debrecsen, and Perczel was
intrusted with their escort thither.
Having accomplished this, he advanced with a small army towards
Szolnok, where the enemy had encamped, and were fortifying themselves
during the cold season.
One fine misty morning, Perczel crossed the Tisza on the ice to
the enemy's nearest position, and, opening fire upon them, obliged them
to retreat to Czegled, whither he pursued them.
[Footnote 48: Szolnok is built on the river Tisza, or Theiss.]
The imperial troops had just crossed a village vineyard. Perczel saw
the last dragoon disappear behind the acacia trees which skirted it,
and, striking his spurs into his horse, he ordered his troops to
advance, that the enemy might not escape them.
At that moment he was arrested by a stranger, who unceremoniously
rode up to him, and, seizing his mantle, accosted him in French.
N'allez pas là! said the unknown, pointing to the
The General looked at him in astonishment. The stranger was an old
man, simply attired en civile, but there was something
peculiarly striking in his martial air and keen glance.
And why should I not go there? asked Perczel.
The enemy will bring you into a snare!
I should like to see that.
You will see it. Behind those vineyards there is undoubtedly a
concealed battery, from which you will receive a cross fire.
Why do you imagine this?
Because it follows naturally from the position.
Ah! we must not let our apprehensions retain us on such grounds; we
have no time to speculate, cried the General, and, shaking off the
importunate stranger, he once more galloped forward.
They were now scarcely a thousand paces from the vineyards. A
Suabian peasant, whose cart had been overturned in endeavouring to pass
the artillery, was standing by the roadside, uttering lamentations over
his damaged goods.
What village is that, good fellow? asked Perczel out of mere
curiosity, pointing to the village at the foot of the vineyards.
Perczel! replied the boor.
That is I, said the General; but I asked you the name of that
May be your excellency is called after it, for its name has been
Perczel since the beginning of the world.
The General stopped short. The words of the somnambulist recurred to
him; he looked round for the old manhe was riding among the troops.
Perczel motioned to him to approach, and said, Do you really
believe that there is a battery concealed behind those vineyards?
I am certain of it. The slightest experience in tactics might
And accordingly you consider the position unattainable.
On the contrarybut on such occasions it is usual to make a
For which a very rapid movement were requisite, and our infantry is
too much fatigued.
We can manage that; intrust me with a battalion of infantry and two
squadrons of cavalry, and wait here in reserve until I start the game
from its cover.
Do so, said the General, and, giving some directions to his
aide-de-camp, he watched the stranger's movements with interest.
The old man put the infantry in the hussars' stirrups, and conducted
them with the utmost expedition across the wood.
The idea was as natural as that of Columbus in regard to the egg,
and yet it had occurred to no one before.
In a few minutes the rapid discharge of musketry announced that the
stranger had not been mistaken; and the batteries, which were actually
lying in ambush behind the hill, appeared retreating from either side.
Perczel then advanced with the reserve to meet his troops. They
returned in triumph with the little, grayhaired stranger, who rode
calmly on as if nothing had happened, his brow still blackened with the
smoke from the gunpowder. The troops could not sufficiently extol his
coolness and intrepidity.
I owe you much, said Perczel, not ashamed to acknowledge the
stranger's superiority. May I know whom I have the honour of
My name is Henry Dembinszki, replied the stranger coldly.
Perczel respectfully saluted him, and placed the marshal's baton in
his hand. It is your due; henceforward let me serve in your
After all, it cannot be denied that my uncle, Gergely Sonkolyi, was
an excellent man; and how well I remember him, as he hunted me in the
forest through bush and brake, while I never expected to rest until we
had made the circuit of the world.
I think I see him still, his cornelian-wood brass-headed cane in his
hand, and his cherry-wood pipe with its acorn-shaped bowl, which he
never took out of his mouth, even when he scoldedand with what
eloquence he could anathematize the sons of men! the raging of the
elements is like the notes of a clarionet in comparison! I was not one
who considered courage, under all circumstances, as a peculiar virtue;
and as soon as I perceived the storm gathering, I no longer took the
matter in jest, but looking about for the first loophole, valiantly
took to my heels, trusting to their speed to place me beyond its reach.
But in order to explain why my uncle, Gergely Sonkolyi, hunted me
through the forest, I must turn up an early letter in the alphabet of
memory, and begin my story at the usual pointnamely, the beginning.
When? I cannot precisely state the date; though so far I may
confidently affirm,it was after the French war, and before the
cholera, that I was turned out of school in disgrace.
Ah yes, I behaved very ill indeed! I sinned against civilisation by
refusing to wear square-toed boots, and for this enormity I was
banished from the classes; and yet, nothing could induce me to wear
anything but sharp-nosed csizmas.
I went home; and my father, after inflicting severe corporal
punishment, threatened to bind me apprentice to a butcher. But,
unfortunately for this speculation, the resident executioner of oxen
declared that the trade required wit; otherwise I might now have
possessed a two-story house in Pesth.
You hit where you have your eye, master, don't you? I asked the
worthy slayer of cattle as he raised his axe, observing (for he
squinted hideously) that he fixed his right eye on the bullock, and the
left one on me.
Eh! to be sure I do, replied the big man.
Then I will just place myself beside you, I said, fearing he might
look out of the wrong eye.
Never fear, said the big man; and with one blow the work was done.
Well now, Master Janos, tell me what peculiar talents are requisite
Heigh! you would not do for this trade. You see we have a different
way of reckoning from what you students have.
I believe you are right, Master Janos; for my mother is always
complaining of your system of twice two.
And now this man is a landed proprietor, and Ia landless one!
Having been rejected by the schoolmaster and the butcher, I was
considered a hopeless subject, and left to my own devices. What should
I do at home? From morning till evening there was not wherewithal to
stain my teeth; so for want of better employment, I began to look about
the village. This certainly did not require much genius, for our house
was on an eminence, from whence we had a view of the whole place; and
when I mounted the great corn-stack in our yard, I could see directly
into some of our neighbours' courts.
Here it was that I became initiated in certain hidden
mysteries,for example, how some of our village dames, who would
launch forth on holidays all smartness and finery, were up to their
elbows in dirt at home, and to their knees in mudtheir heads vying
with those unowned hay-stacks which are kicked at by every passing
colt; while their lips, which were so daintily prim on holiday
occasions that one could scarcely believe them capable of pronouncing
the letter R, now raised the very dust on the roads with their abuse.
Then there was a house which had two doors to it; and whenever the
goodman made his exit at the one door, somebody else entered by the
At another house, whenever the master came home late, his wife laid
his dinner outside, upon the millstone table, with the servants; and
the best of the matter was, that with this too familiar exception, he
was held in vast respect by the whole household.
All this was very well to contemplate from a distance; but I
happened at last to stumble upon something, a nearer view of which
would have been by no means disagreeable to me.
Our next neighbour was my excellent uncle, Gergely Sonkolyi. His
house was pretty ancient; and I remember, in my childish days, pulling
the reeds out of the roof to look for sugar. In those days the
walls were painted partly blue and partly yellow; but afterwards the
old man had them all rough-cast, and then it was not necessary to paint
[Footnote 49: Reedsnad. Cane sugar is called nad czukor.]
The house lay below the garden, and there were little plots before
the windows, which were always filled with bouquets of musk and carrot
flowers; and from a square hole in the roof sundry bunches of pepper
blushed forth, in the warlike vicinity of an outstretched scythe.
Several large mulberry trees in the court-yard formed a
roosting-place for the poultry; and opposite the kitchen door was the
entrance to the wine-cellar, over which hung a variety of pumpkins.
Beyond this was a large pigeon-house, farther on a pig-sty, then a
two-yard measure, then a draw-well; while various implements of
industry appeared in the perspectivesuch as ploughs, harrows,
waggons, &c. And if to all these I add nine dogs, two speckled
bullocks, and a flock of geese, I have before me a very perfect view of
my Uncle Sonkolyi's court-yard.
The nine dogs kept watch at the entrance when my uncle was not
hunting, feasting in imagination upon the savoury odour of
gulyas-hus which issued from the grated door of the kitchen, where
a large fire burned incessantly in the broad grate, with various huge
pots hissing among the flames, while a squadron of linen servants,
each one redder than the other, hurried to and fro under the direction
of old Mrs. Debora.
[Footnote 50: The herd's meat; a hash composed of beef, with various
spices, and a quantity of onions and pepper.]
[Footnote 51: The kitchen-maids and boys wear linen dresses, and
wide linen drawers.]
Beyond the kitchen were several other apartments, for a description
of which I must refer my readers to the county chronicles, where all
such goods and chattels are particularly delineated. For my part, I
only remember the little back room, with its large white stove, the old
eight-day clock, two great tent-beds standing side by side, a
double-leaved oak table in the middle of the room, and the history of
Joseph and his brethren on the walls. A casement door, opening inside,
disclosed another chamber, whose walls were hung with hunting-bags,
whips, bugles, swords, and saddle accoutrements, each one more rusty
than another. But among all these reminiscences, the most interesting
in my regard is an old black leather sofa: ah! it was on that very old
sofabut I must not anticipate.
Well, it was here that my dear uncle livedthe honourable and
nobly-born Gergely Sonkolyi.
But he might have lived here or anywhere else for aught I might have
known or cared, had it not been for the prettiestthe very prettiest
little girl that mortal eyes e'er rested on.
She was the old man's daughter. Little Esztike was a most lovely
creature: often, very often did sleep forsake me thinking of her,
although I still oftener dreamt of herof those small soft hands, and
those large dark eyes, one half glance of which I would not have
exchanged for the Chinese emperor's finest cap. I was never tired of
standing guard all day long on the top of the corn-stack, from whence I
could see my little darling when she came out to the court to water her
flowers, or feed her doves. Each motion, each turnin short,
everything about her, was so engaging and so attractive, that I often
forgot while watching her whether it was morning or evening.
But all this was not sufficient for happiness: it was like sucking
the honey through the glass, to dream of so much sweetness.
I would have given kingdoms, had I possessed them, to any one who
would have helped me with good counsel; but good counsels are not
mushrooms, growing where they are not sown.
Everybody knew that my uncle, Gergely Sonkolyi, was a peculiar
man,who did not understand a joke in certain matters, and had a
strange fancy of never allowing any of the male sex to approach within
nine paces of his daughter. Whoever wanted to marry her (this was his
argument) will ask for her; and if not, he shall not make a fool of
her. And his usual reply to suitors for his daughter's hand was: Will
you have her to-day, nephew, or wait till to-morrow? indicating that
she was still very young, and not fit for the charge of a ménage. But all this I considered a very matter-of-fact view of life; and I
must confess that it annoyed me extremely at the time, though
afterwards I acknowledged he was right.
Notwithstanding my uncle's caution, however, there were times when I
contrived to make little Esztike sensible of my feelings towards her.
But there was one terrible fatalitythat old Mrs. Debora, who never
moved from home, but kept watch for ever, like a dragon over treasure;
and wo to the unhappy youth who dared to visit Esztikethere were few
who had courage to make a second trial.
Some said that this Mistress Debora was a sister of the old man;
others, that she was his wife. Indeed she might have been his
grandmother, for she looked older than the Visegradi tower.
[Footnote 52: An ancient fortress on the Danube.]
It was six whole years since I had shaken the school dust from my
boots, and still the gates of paradise were barred against me.
One evening, when the old gentleman had gone out, I could no longer
control my impatience; and leaping over the garden wall, I slipped to
the back of the house, where I could at least see the windows of the
room in which Esztike sat; and there I stood, with a beating heart, and
eyes fixed on the shadow of a hand which I distinctly saw through the
muslin curtains, moving up and down at some needle-work, while I
actually devoured it with my eyes.
Suddenly the hand advanced and knocked violently at the window; it
was impossible not to see that it was intended for me, and, while I was
hesitating whether to fly towards it or from it, the window burst open,
and I thought the Egyptian seven years of leanness had thrust its head
outit was Mistress Debora!
What do you want there, you good-for-nothing, long-legged
horihorgas, staring like a calf at a new gate, eh? Get along about
your business, or I will set the dogs after you; if you have nothing
better to do, go and seek for grass to make your wisdom-teeth grow;
and with this compliment she closed the window violently.
[Footnote 53: Horihorgas, hobbledehoy.]
It was several minutes ere I could collect my scattered senses. At
last, I drew my cap over my eyes, and went home with a heavy heart. I
lay gazing all night at the starry heavens; the very thought of sleep
was banished from my senses. How could it be otherwise? as often as I
tried to think of my little Esztike's beautiful face, the hideous
vision of old Mistress Debora rose before me; and to increase my ill
humour, all the cats in the neighbourhood seemed to have collected to
squall and trill under my window. I contented myself for some time with
patiently anathematizing them; but perceiving at last that they were
rehearsing operas from end to end, I jumped up, and, seizing a
rolling-pinthe first implement which came to my hand, I dashed it
amongst the choristers. It was certainly a theatrical stroke, and from
that night forward I never had cause to repeat it.
Next morning, however, the black soup awaited me. My father
entered the room, with his fox-headed mantle over one shoulder and his
lambskin cap drawn over his brow.
[Footnote 54: Black soup or black dose, désagrément.]
Well, my lad, you have done for yourself now, he exclaimed; you
knocked out the brains of Mrs. Debora's pet cat last night.
Phu! this is a bad job indeed! Is there actually no life in him?
All gone, ab intestato, said my father, holding up the
great fat animal, with its four legs hanging down, and its white teeth
grinning at me.
I shook my head in despair. If Mistress Debora ever finds this out,
there is an end to all hope, and I shall never be able to marry. Alas!
why did I allow the cats to put me out of temper? A thought suddenly
struck me, and, dressing hastily, I laid the deceased neatly, out in my
handkerchief, and, tying up the four corners, started for Mistress
At the gate, I found the nine dogs disputing with a Jew, in whose
cloak they had made sundry air-holes, while the unfortunate man roared
and struggled, to the infinite amusement of the servants.
This was so far propitious for me, as otherwise they might have
required my passport also, and it would have been no jesting matter to
have struck my uncle's dogs; but happily I got through the kitchen
without observation, and looking once more at the four corners, to see
that all was right, I knocked humbly at Mistress Debora's door.
Who is there? said a voice like the sound of broken crockery.
I opened the door. At the memorable window sat Mistress Debora, who
turned round and squinted at me from beneath her spectacles. Her
hairor more probably some other person'swas twisted up behind with
a giraffe comb, and the face, which was the colour of brown leather,
had more wrinkles than could well find room.
At the other window sat my little ruby at her work. There was not
much to be seen from her window, poor child! for a large vetch-stack
was piled up before it. As I entered, she blushed to the very
shoulders, or at least I fancied so; but her eyes were cast down, and
she never ventured to raise them.
Well, what have you got there? said Mistress Debora,instead of
wishing me good morning.
I advanced, and, taking up her bony fingers, pressed them against my
teethbah! I have never been able to pick a bone since. Ah! my dear,
worthy aunt, have you forgotten me? I am that little, fair-haired Peter
Csallokozi, who used to bring young pigeons so often to his dear aunt.
And who used to break my windows so often with pebbles. Well, you
have grown big enough, at any rate.
But my dear aunt has preserved her looks quite wonderfully, or
rather I should say, grows younger.
Ay, I was handsome enough in my day; folks can tell you that I used
to wash my face every evening with warm milk, which made my skin so
white, one can see that still(it required imagination); there is not
so handsome a girl in the country as I was in my young daysyour
father may remember that('when you were young the priest was not born
that christened my father,' thought I, but did not say it). For some
years past I have lost much of my looks, certainly. Ay, ay, there is
nothing lasting under the sun!
Meanwhile I had been drawing nearer to Esztike, which the dragon
observing, desired her to go out and see if the labourers were come.
Esztike rose and went out.
Well, let me hear what you have to say, nephew; and tell it
quickly, for we are always busy here.
To come to the point then, I must observe, dear aunt, that in these
days we cannot be too cautious; misfortune meets us at every step,
Therefore we should stay at home and mind our business. Nothing can
happen to us at home.
Not to ourselves perhaps, but there are other creatures about us,
aunt; for instance, you have cats and so have we
Only that ours are handsomer.
Perfectly true. Well, these cats frequently pay visitsyours to
ours, and ours to yours
I know that well enough, for your cats gnaw all the sausages in our
attics; but ours don't need to go to you, for they have enough to eat
at home. Go, Estike, continued the hag, as the little girl re-entered,
and see if the young peacocks have been fed.
(A time will come, you old witch, when I shall crack nuts with your
bones, thought I, but did not say it.) Well, dear aunt, last night,
as I was saying, these innocent creatures had assembled, and were
singing away togetherit was quite delightful to hear themwhen some
cruel and treacherous hand knocked out the brains of the handsomest
Served you right! what business had the cat to be out?
It was not our cat that was killed, but yours, dear aunt, I
replied, untying the handkerchief, and producing the remains of her
I shall never forget the look of rage, despair, and horror, which I
was doomed to encounter at that moment, and which has often haunted me
since, even in my dreams. I pinched myself at last, to assure myself
that I had not been turned to stone.
My cat! she shrieked, while her eyes glared, and her lips
foamed, and, tearing it out of my hands, she began kissing and fondling
it like an infant. Cziczuskam! cziczuskam! look at melook at me!
she cried, pulling its eyes open. At last she laid it on the table,
and, throwing herself upon it, began to weep bitterly.
At that moment Esztike re-entered, and sat down before her little
table. Taking advantage of Mistress Debora's emotion, I slipped up to
herto Esztike, not to Mrs. Deboraand, pressing her small white hand
in mine, asked, in a tremulous voice, You are not angry with me,
dearest Esztike, are you?
Why should I be angry? said the artless little girl, casting down
her eyes, and drawing her hand out of mine.
It was a foolish question, I allow; but when one is in love, wise
questions do not always present themselves.
I had scarcely time to look at my little violet, before Mistress
Debora again grumbled out, Esztike, go and see if your father is
Tartar take the old vampire! I thought she was bewailing her cat.
Once more alone with her, however, I endeavoured to console her, spoke
of the weather, of the maize crop, of the vinesall in vain. At last
she started up
Wait, you worthless scamp! she cried; whoever you are, who
murdered this little innocent creatureI'll find you out, and revenge
it on your children's children(Merciful Heaven! she means to live
three generations longer!) I will place the affair before the county,
and begin a suit immediately, a violentialis, infamisationalis
suit. You shall be avenged, my cruelly murdered, innocent, speckled
cat, and I will make you a fearful example to generations still
You are quite right, my dear aunt, your determination is excellent;
he deserves the utmost rigour of the law, and I promise you I shall be
the first to look out for him.
Will you really promise that? exclaimed Mistress Debora; and then
followed what I had dreaded might be the consequence of my generous
speech. She actually seized and embraced me!
My dear nephew, you were always a good lad; your father was a
worthy manI love all your family. Find out the murderer of my cat,
and I will bless you for it, even after your death!
I would rather bless you under those circumstances, I
thought, but did not say it; and, promising to do all in my power to
hasten the criminalis inquisition, she proceeded to enumerate
her favourite's meritshow he could purr, how he would leap on the
table, and drink coffee out of a saucer, how sagacious, and how knowing
he was; and then followed anecdotes illustrative of the virtues of her
poor lost cat, to all of which I listened with unheard-of patience.
I at length suggested the prudence of removing the object of her
emotion, and, after a most affecting scene, she consigned the precious
relics to my arms, to be buried under her window, and I took leave,
promising to return as soon as possible with some information relative
to the murderer.
I then buried the cat, and raised a monument of sods above its
grave, by which means I thoroughly ingratiated myself in Mistress
Meanwhile, she seemed to have forgotten that she had sent Esztike
out to watch for her father; and when, with a beating heart, I hurried
to the gate, I found my little charmer still there.
For whom are you waiting so long? I asked, by way of conversation.
For my dear father, she replied, twisting the little tassel of her
Poor little Esztike! how much you have to suffer from that old Mrs.
She did not speak, but the large tears filled her eyes.
It was then I first remarked how beautiful black eyes look when they
weep: tears do not become blue eyes, I like them best when they
Ah, Esztike! it should not be thus ifbut I won't let you be
annoyed if I can help it, that I won't.
She did not answer. I confess I should not have liked if she had
been able to answer every word I said.
Nobody loves me, I continued, in the wide world: my life is very
lonely and sad; but surely Heaven will smile upon us yet.
My little dove looked as if she wished to go, yet fain would stay;
but as I behaved discreetly, she remained. A cold wind began to blow,
and she had only a slight silk handkerchief round her neck.
Why don't you put on a warmer handkerchief? I asked. You might
catch cold and die.
It would be no great pity, said the poor child, sadly; I would go
to a good place, I hope, and nobody would miss me.
Oh! do not say that, unless you wish to break my heart (here my
voice was somewhat choked)! You must live a long time yet, dearest
Esztike; for if you die, I shall soon know how deep the Danube runs!
And then I hastened away; and when I reached home, I found that my
cheeks were wet, and that I was sobbing like a child. Ay, the heart of
man makes him a strange animal!
* * * * *
For some time I had no occasion to fear my uncle's dogs, knowing
that Mistress Debora would not set them at me; but I generally watched
till the good man went out to wage war on the hares, and then I
hastened to our neighbour's with all the information I had collected as
to the murderer of the catdescribing, from his cap to his slippers, a
being very unlike myself, and whose supposed existence nearly turned
Mistress Debora's head.
But this could not continue very long; and my aunt at last began to
forget her pet's untimely end, and no longer received her dear nephew
so graciously as before.
After a lapse of some days, I called on pretext of speaking to my
uncle (I had watched till I had seen him go out, with gun and dogs);
and after poignant regrets at not finding him at home, I asked Mistress
Debora if she had heard what had happened in the village. As nothing
had happened, she naturally had not heard, and therefore was the more
curious to know; and I accordingly proceeded to repeat all the gossip I
had collected from some old gazettes with as much eloquence as I
couldand (Heaven forgive me!) I fear, as much inventiontill the old
lady was ready to drop off her seat at my histories. She would listen
for hours; and though I dared not speak to Esztike, we had frequent
opportunities of exchanging sighs, and our eyes carried on most
interesting dialogues together.
On one pretext or other I was honourably received for some time, and
even allowed to bring Esztike books, which I had borrowed from a cousin
in the village. True, they were only German books; but what could I do?
Had I brought such unholy things into the house in the Hungarian
language, I should have been banished from it for ever; for, if I
remember rightly, they were romances and love tales, by Wieland and
Kotzebue. But they passed for good books; and Mistress Debora (the
worthy soul knew no other language than Magyar) would frequently insist
on my translating the salutary effusions, which of course I did in as
touching a style as possible, while the tears ran down the furrows in
One day, after taking leave (I generally had an instinctive feeling
as to the time when my uncle would return), I was in the act of opening
the house door, when it was pushed towards me, and the next instant my
noble and honourable uncle, Gergely Sonkolyi, with pipe and
brass-headed cane, stood before me.
How to escape was my first impulse; but seeing this was impossible,
my next was to put a brave face on the matter.
Well, nephew, said my uncle, twisting his moustache; red,
stammering, out of breatheh? So you visit here, do you?
What could I answer? I was not fool enough to say I had come to
visit Esztike; and should I say I was visiting Mistress Deborashe may
be his wife, I thought, and then he will shoot me through the head!
I know your errand, continued my uncle, pertinaciously holding the
handle of the door. Storms and thunder! don't think to put your
fingers in my eyes! Ten thousand fiery devils! if ever you dare to come
within my door again, I swear by the woods of Karpath that I will make
leather belts of your skin!
Thank you, uncle, I replied, delighted to get off so easily, as,
once more commending me to the devil, he entered, and shut the door
behind him; while I heard his allegorical phrasesor, as an impartial
world would call them, his oathsechoing wrathfully through the house.
What was to be done? I found myself just where I had been before the
death of the cat.
I now considered it prudent to avoid the dogs.
From this day forward, I had very seldom an opportunity of seeing
Esztike, except across our gardens; and even then, I exposed myself to
the danger of being shot through the head, if my uncle should see me.
On one occasion Esztike gave me to understand by signs, that she
dared not approach nearer. I pointed to the attic windows, which my
little sweetheart understood at once; and from that day we frequently
carried on a pantomimic conversation from our attics. I often laugh
when I think how much we contrived to say, and how quickly we
comprehended each other's gestures.
One day I heard that my uncle had set out on a long journey, and
that the dogs had been tied up, which none would have dared to do till
the old man had fairly erased the frontiers of the county.
I immediately went out into the woods, and spent several hours in
filling my hat with mushrooms, which I brought to our neighbour's.
The old man had probably turned the house upside down on the
occasion of my last expedition; for every one, from the first cook to
the last dog, looked askance at me.
As I opened the door of the sitting-room (I had only one leg and one
arm inside), my progress was arrested by Mistress Debora, who hastened
over, and shutting the door on my other arm and leg, which consequently
remained outside, exclaimed, with hospitable consideration: Just stay
where you are, nephew, and say what you want.
I only want to beg my dear aunt's acceptance of some mushrooms,
which I have gathered for her.
Eh, well! she exclaimed, releasing me from my ignominious
position. You have brought mushrooms? that is another thing. Come in.
I entered, and produced the mushrooms.
That is a good lad! Well, what have you been about? do you still go
Oh, dear, no! I have finished my studies.
So soon! And what business are you going to take up?
I am an oculist, aunt.
At your service, aunt.
Little Esztike tripped up to me: Now you are joking, bacsi, she
whispered, with a mischievous smile.
Well, you must carry on the joke, I whispered in reply.
Merely because I wish my dearest Esztike to hand me Aunt Debora's
spectacles over the wall this evening; I am going to make a little
improvement in them.
Well, interrupted Aunt Debora, who had been examining the
mushrooms; and so you are an oculist? Ay, ay!
At your command. But I will not inconvenience you further, I said,
taking up my hat.
Oh, stay a little longer, said the good dameat the same time
pushing me towards the door, which she opened to let me out.
I got the spectacles that evening; and removing the magnifying
glasses with great care, I substituted a pair which I had cut out of
the smoothest pane of glass with a diamond.
Next morning I rose early and replaced the spectacles on Aunt
Debora's table, after which I obtained admittance with a basket of
We are really much obliged to you, said Mistress Debora, speaking
in the plural number, though she gave none to anybody but herself.
Oh, it is not worth mentioning.
But I must just look if they have any inhabitants, she added;
this fruit generally has. And searching for her spectacles, she
placed them on her nose and began examining the cherries, holding them
first close, then at a distance, and then taking off her glasses and
wiping them to look again.
I don't know what is the matter, she exclaimed at last; I can't
see in the least to-day.
Eh, how? what is the matter?
Just try these glasses, nephew, and tell me if they magnify.
I looked through them. Why, aunt, the hairs on my skin look like
O dear! then I must be becoming blind, for I can see nothing
My dear aunt, I exclaimed, with a look of alarm, turning her round
to the light, what can be the matter with your eyes? St. Gregory! you
are going to get a white cataract! Why don't you take more care of
A white cataract! she shrieked, covering her eyes with both her
hands. Oh! I am lost! I am undone! Nephew, dear nephew! can you not
Hm! I replied, with a look of anxious importance, making a few
doctor's grimaces; have you no sensations of paralysis in the tunica
She knew what the tunica choroidaia was! and replied that she
certainly had some sensations of the kind.
Do you awake often at night?
I do indeed, every night.
Hm! a bad symptom. Show me your tongue.
She produced it. A very bad tongue indeed (here, at least, I spoke
truth). If these symptoms should be accompanied by pains in the elbows
(I knew the good lady was subject to this), I fear, my dear aunt, it
may end inmarmaurosis!
O dear! O dear!my elbows ache constantly; but what is the
That is when the retina gets apoplexia, and the patient remains in
She did not comprehend much of this, but what she did was quite
enough for her.
For Heaven's sake, don't let me get blind, dear nephew!what shall
I do, or what can I take?
There is not a moment to lose: you must go to bed instantly, while
I prepare some medicine.
I went home and mixed a little liquorice and rose-water, and found
my patient in bed on my return.
Having rubbed her eyes with the rose-water, and tied up her face so
that only her chin protruded from beneath the bandage, I ordered her to
keep quite quiet, and by no means to remove it until I gave her leave,
as otherwise total ablepsia might be the consequence.
And now I could speak to my little Esztike without disturbance; and
(Heaven forgive me!)I gave her a hearty kiss!
Esztike! cried Aunt Debora, suddenly starting up.
Esztike had slipped out of the room.
Csitt! I replied softly, Esztike is not here.
What was that smack I heard just now?
I was drawing the cork from the medicine-bottle.
O dear! the medicine!
Yes, dear aunt; but you must not talk or make the least exertion,
for you will certainly get the black cataract if you do.
This will not do, thought I; for if she has not eyes, she has
ears, and good ones too.
After a few minutes, I sat down beside her and felt her pulse.
You must know, dear aunt, that we oculists have ascertained by
anatomy that the ears and nose serve, like garret windows, to
communicate fresh air to the nerves of the eyes. When, however, the
nerves are in a state of inflammation, the danger is, that the air,
passing through all these windows at once, may occasion a draught,
which would irritate the inflammation; and therefore, according to
Doctor Smilax, on such occasions one of the passages must be stopped
with cotton. So now, dear aunt, you may have your choice; which do you
consider the most convenient to have closed upthe nose or the ears?
She naturally preferred dispensing with her ears. And now, at last,
this living house Statuarium was not only blind, but deaf and dumb too,
and for the first time in her life she left her fellow-creatures in
And thus days glided bycenturies of bliss they might have been,
for aught I knew or cared. Mistress Debora was still under strict
medical discipline, and my little Esztike was as good as she was
lovely; and II don't wish to praise myself. Sufficient to say, we
were happy, and forgot all but our own happiness, as if it were to last
for ever; but alas! when does a man in love ever think of the future?
One evening, later than usual, as I was still sitting beside Esztike
(I could not tear myself away, and besides, it was raining hard), I
thought I heard some person knocking at the outer door, but took no
notice of it; for, with my little dove by my side, what cared I if the
world were falling to pieces around us? The old clock ticked
cheerfully; and Esztike and I had so many pretty things to say about
nothing, as we sat together on the same seat (the old black leather
sofa), and consequently not very far apart.
All at once we heard a noise in the kitchen.
Holy Saint Stephen! it may be thieves! cried Esztike trembling,
and drawing still closer to me.
Who would not feel courageous under such circumstances? For my part,
I felt capable of unheard-of heroism; and assuring her that she had
nothing to fear from a dozen robbers as long as I was there, I seized a
pistol (without a trigger) from the wall, while Esztike, encouraged by
my boldness, took the candle, and we advanced, to the door. I opened
it. Esztike uttered a loud scream, and extinguished the light. The
outer door was open, and a dark form advanced towards us.
St. Barbara, help! I sincerely ejaculated. Who is there? I
exclaimed, in as loud a voice as I was master of, at the same time
presenting the triggerless pistol at the black form.
Thunder and storms! and who are you, I should like to know?
Lightning and fury!
Uyüyü! my worthy uncle! I cried, each word sounding like a squib
let off at my ear; and making a dash for the door, the next instant I
was outside. But here I was stopped; the flaps of my coat having been
caught in the heavy gate, I could neither turn nor extricate myself,
but remained hanging by my wings like a cockchafer.
In vain I pulled and kicked, praying that the flaps of my only
holiday coat might be torn off, while I heard my uncle deliberately
opening the door behind me.
He will make mince-meat of me, thought I; and exerting all my
remaining strength, I tore myself from the flaps and fell to the
Now for itfly! I exclaimed; and starting up, my legs bore me
with supernatural agility towards the forest.
Stop, rascal! roared my pursuer behind me, or I will shoot you
through the head.
I only ran the faster.
Stop! he roared again, or I will shoot you through the legs.
As I had not stopped for the sake of my head, I naturally had no
superior partiality for my legs; and so we continued to runHeaven
knows how long!until we were a good way through the forest. Neither
of us had the slightest idea of capitulating; but I began to perceive
that the distance between us was gradually decreasing (the old man had
learned to run in 1809), and I began to smell the brass-headed cane
very near me.
[Footnote 55: Alluding to the flight of the Hungarian volunteers at
Raab, before Napoleon.]
My worthy uncle had been endeavouring to reach my back with this
cane for some minutes, when, just as he was about to aim a cruel blow,
I disappeared from his sight.
The good man had not much time for astonishment; for the next
instant the earth opened beneath him, and he too fell head foremost,
from depth to depth, as I had done, wondering in which part of the
lower world we should alight.
On reaching the bottom, we found ourselves in total darkness.
O me! O me! groaned the worthy man; I am dddead and dd!
there is no doubt of it. Wo to my sinful soul! The good priest always
warned me not to swear, or the devil would carry me away; and now he
has mewith the guilt of meditated murder on my soul, too! Oh! Heaven
be merciful to my sinful soul, and I will never swear again, nor poach!
I will pay the priest's tithes, as much as is due, and give my daughter
to her loveronly let me be saved from perdition!
The good man trembled like a jelly, firmly believing he was at least
in the vestibule of purgatory. Meantime, I had a good opportunity of
hearing his resolutions of amendment; and plainly enough, too, for we
had both fallen into the same wolf's trap, full twelve feet under
ground, and were thus in tolerably good arrest for the present.
I began to reflect that although I had escaped one danger, I had
probably fallen into another not less alarming; for, if a troop of
wolves came tumbling in upon us, our resurrection would certainly be
divested of all fleshly encumbrances.
However, it was no use to be afraid. One thing was certain: if the
wolves came they would devour us, and if they did not come they would
not devour us; but in either case, fear was useless. And, consoling
myself with this argument, I took my pipe and tobacco-pouch from my
pocketfor the pit was filled with innumerable gnats.
Mercy on my sinful soul! roared my uncle, starting up as he saw
the light of my pipe in the darkness.
Of course I sat as still as a hare, determined to let him tremble a
little longer; but, in the excess of his despair, he hit me such a kick
with his spurred foot, that I was under the necessity of addressing
Don't be uneasy, uncle, I exclaimed; it is certainly an
unfortunate occurrence, but you need not break your neighbour's bones.
Nephew! cried my uncle, in a voice of joy, Nephew Peti! are you
here too? are we alive? or where are we both, and how came we here?
Just as the rain comes from heaven, uncle, without a ladder; but
let us rejoice that we have reached the bottom with sound limbs.
Well, but where are we?
Why, in a wolf's pit.
A wolf's pit! ten thousand fiery
Softly, softly, uncle; remember the promises you have just made.
Just made! did I know I was in a wolf's pit? I thought I was in a
far more honourable place. How the tartar are we to get out of this?
Three-and-thirty centuries of devils' livers! how the scorpion can I
annihilate the accursed philosophy which dug a pit here? The leprosy
take the idiot who invented it!nine bucketfuls of dragons' nails! how
the Alp can we be heard from this infernal hole? and in this strain he
continued, till the pit resounded with his elocution. At last, turning
to me, Nephew, he said, just let me get up on your shoulders and see
if there is any way of getting out of this, and if I succeed, I will
help you up afterwards.
I submitted, and he mounted me, shouting to the full extent of his
voice, while his enormous weight, and the exertions he made at each
shout, made my position somewhat painful.
You had better not make so much noise, dear uncle, I said, hoping
he would dismount, for if the wolves come in upon us we shall need no
help out again.
At last my worthy uncle dismounted, and sat down, muttering and
swearing to himself.
Chains and dungeons! what is this? he exclaimed, drawing a white
heap from under his feet.
It was the dead goose which was placed on the top of the pit to
allure the wolves, and had made its descent into the pit with us.
But what are we to do here till the morning? said my uncle; the
gnats will devour us. I thought the devils were pinching me with fiery
Just do as I do, uncle; light your pipe and fumigate them.
Well, you are a man, nephew; I swear there's something in you;
and, seeing there was nothing better to do, he lighted his pipe, and we
smoked together as if for a wager.
But now, nephew, began my uncle, after some silence, speaking with
his pipe in his mouth, while he stirred the bowl with his little
finger, what the tartar have you to do in my house, eh?
Well, uncle, here or there, why should I deny it, I am in love with
But the proper way would have been to speak to me first.
I am not in love with you, uncle.
Nor I with you; but to come to the point, what business have you
with the girl? love her, if you will, and as much as you like, but
don't come near her; you can love her just as well nine miles off!
But that won't do, uncle. I don't want to love Esztike from such a
distance. It was far enough between our two roofs; but if she has no
objection, and no peculiar animosity to mehere, in the wolf's pit,
with all solemnity, I demand her dear little hand, and if Mrs. Debora
is to go with her, I will take her too.
Take the tartar! why, she is my stepmother! You don't want to be my
son and my father at once, do you? But I'll tell you what, nephew, you
are still a child, and, what's more, you have nothing to break into
Very true, uncle, nor the milk to break anything into; but the
Almighty is rich, and He will assist us.
Heaven does not make banknotes for anybody, said the old man,
holding his pipe in the palm of his hand; and you need not expect
roasted sparrows to fly into your mouth, though you hold it open till
Well, but what is not may yet be; in the beginning there was
nothing, as the Bible tells us. I will go to Pesth, finish my studies,
and be a tekintetes ur and advocate.
[Footnote 56: Tekintetes ur, respectable sira title.]
A starving candidate! interrupted my uncle; it would have been
better if you had been a priest; your father always wished it, honest
man! but you were an obstinate rascal all your life. You might have
been a chaplain now, and the deuce would not have brought us here; but
I've said my word, and I'll make two out of it. Hark ye! the elections
are approaching, and you may profit by them if you like; we will join
the national meeting, and see what can be made of you.
And then Esztike will be mine?
Storms of Karpath! can you think of nothing but Esztike?
Uncle, they may make a lord-lieutenant of me if they like, only let
me have Esztike.
When you get as far as that I should not care, hang you! but one
syllable does not cross your lips, nor do you approach my house before
the elections, or, by the wars of Attila! nothing shall come of it.
I was too happy not to promise anything, and we ended with a hearty
embrace, and my uncle saying, Give me a light, my son,a peculiar
mark of favour on his part, for he always lighted his own pipe.
After this, I laid the old man's head on my breast, and he slept
soundly, and snored as loud as if he were blowing a bassoon with each
nostril. It was impossible for me to sleepthe very pit trembled with
the sounds; so I lay awake, thinking of my good fortune, and smoking
the gnats off us. At last the morning dawned, and, as our appetites
began to sharpen, we renewed our efforts to obtain delivery, shouting
by turns till we had no voices left, and then we sat down again and
smoked in despair.
Chance at last brought two foresters in our direction, who,
observing the smoke of our pipes from some distance, came to the
Luckily they happened to be two of my uncle's own men, and as they
drew us out of the jaws of death, he promised to turn their skins
inside out if ever they dared disclose where they had found us.
It was fortunate that we returned when we did, for the good folks
were just about to advertise us both.
* * * * *
For two long months I never spoke to Esztike, though I often saw
her, poor child! with swelled eyes and pale cheeks, and felt as if my
heart would burst; but I had promised, and I wished to keep my word.
At the end of the two months, the elections closed. It was all very
fine indeed, though, at this present moment I have no particular
recollection of anything, except that there was one fat lad advanced,
two others degraded, several more kicked out, and that, when it came to
my turn, I was taken by the throat, my hair cut, my attila slit up the
sides, one of my masticators drawn, and the oath administered.
Some days after the election, my uncle gave a great supper, to which
all the aunts and uncles of the village were invited, and myself among
the rest, though I was neither aunt nor uncle to anybody.
What this grand supper consisted of I know not; indeed I had
important reasons for remaining in ignorance till the present day.
The large table in the arbour was laid out for forty-eight persons,
and when I arrived the company was already assembled.
My little Esztike was busy with her guests, serving everybody, with
her sweet rosy facefor she had just come from the fireand now and
then turning bashfully away, as one or other uncle tried to embrace
her; but with all her sweetness, and all her blushes, she still looked
very sad, poor child!
I bowed low as I entered, striking my spurs together, but the little
girl was so startled by my appearance that she overturned the Polish
soup she had in her hand over the head and ears of a certain uncle, who
complained of dulness of hearing ever afterwards.
You are welcome, nephew! cried Uncle Gergely, though you come
late; you presume on your character of bridegroom.
My little Esztike grew very pale, and looked very sad too. Something
had fallen into her eyes, she said, turning away; but it was tears that
were in them.
Really to see how these young people grow up! said an important
assessor, who always sat on two chairs at once; my niece Esztike will
very soon be marriageable.
Not at all very soon, said Uncle Gergely, severing at one cut the
fork stuck in the goose's back, as if it had been a fibre; she is now
It needed no more for poor Esztike. She turned to go out, but the
landscape must have looked very confused, for she could scarcely find
the arbour door.
It never once entered her head, bless her! that she was my bride and
I her bridegroom, and that we were to be a pair.
Esztike, bring the sugar-box, cried Mistress Debora, who enjoyed
what she believed to be our mortification. She had never ceased
exciting Uncle Gergely against Esztike and me since that memorable day,
and indeed she had reason enough, poor soul! for I had kept her a week
and a half in bed, with eyes blindfolded and ears stuffed,and,
moreover, she now believed that I had killed her cat.
Nephew! cried Uncle Gergely, beckoning me; run after her, he
whispered, and console her a little, poor child! or she will cry her
This needed no repetition. I darted after Esztike, and, seizing her
hand, pressed it to my lips. Esztike, dear Esztike, one word!
Excuse me, she said faintly; I feel very ill.
My Esztike, do you know your future bridegroom?
May I die sooner than know him!
Then do not die, for he is now so near you that none can be
For the first time, the whole business began to dawn on her; and in
an instant all the blood rushed to her cheeks, and dyed them a deep
Had I not caught her in my arms, she would have fallen. How quickly
her heart beat!and oh! that sigh, which released it! I felt its deep
throb. Once more I strained her to my heart, and whisperingBut it is
all still a secret, I tore myself away, and hurried back to the
Meanwhile, Uncle Gergely had announced the news, to the joy of all
the assembled guests, but the rage of Mistress Debora; and when I
returned I was received with such a burst of congratulations, that I
was quite overpowered.
I will bet you anything, said Uncle Gergely, that this girl will
bring anything back with her except the sugar-box, which she was sent
He might have betted what he liked; when little Esztike returned,
her artless countenance beamed with some joyful mystery, but there was
no sugar-box in her hand.
Every eye was turned upon her; it was no wonder, therefore, that she
blushed like the morning sky.
Well, where is the sugar-box? cried Mistress Debora impatiently.
Esztike blushed still deeper, looked still more confused; but at
last, when she saw that everybody began to smile on her, she ran over
to her father and hid her burning face in his bosom. The old man
laughed, and kissed the little bride again and again, making her face
still redder with his rough beard.
I will go for the sugar myself, said I; for I felt as if thorns
were under my feet.
Certainly, go for it, both of you, said Uncle Gergely, putting
Esztike's hand in mine.
And now I will answer for it, we shall not see the sugar box
to-night, remarked the assessor on the two chairs.
We went into the house together.
Who can presume to compare his happiness with mine? Who would be so
audacious as to seek words to express such happiness? I am silent; for
that small white hand, that smiling but fitful glance, those artless
lips, whose silence spoke so muchall were mine; and their possession
made me wealthier than if an empire had been conferred on me. O God!
what a beautiful thought of thine was love!
When we returned to the arbour with the sugar-box, the company had
long forgotten that they had drunk coffee; and we excused ourselves by
saying that there was no sugar in the box when we went into the house.
Fortunately they did not investigate the matter farther. So far was
truethe box was empty when we went for it; but when we returned with
itthere was still nothing more in it!
* * * * *
This day two months I will be glad to see you all at the wedding.
And with these words, my uncle closed the fiançailles.
* * * * *
But the will of poor mortals is in the keeping of God.
Before the two months were over, my uncle was obliged to take a long
journeyso long, that he could not even take his pipe with him! He
blessed us both, and died like a good Christian, scarcely cursing the
doctor and the medicines; and we buried my good uncle, Gergely
Esztike and I mourned for him a whole yearoutwardly; for in our
hearts we remember him as tenderly to this day as if he had died but
yesterday. And this was the reason that I could never call him
'father,' for there is no advancement in death: in whatever relation we
die, there we remain.
When the year was out, that happy moment arrived when my earthly
paradise was at last attained, and I pressed to my heart my own dear
Never, indeed, did such sweetness meet my lips, as when for the
first time she kissed me of her own good-will. I remember it all well
to this day.
And yet it was a long while ago.
That beautiful little sylph-like form, which in those days I could
have spanned, has now so increased in size that I have enough to do to
embrace it with both arms; but for all that, I love her as my very
* * * * *
Mistress Debora still lives and rules, though unable to move a
member of her bodyher tongue always excepted. This member is still
sound and healthy; and she has engaged herself to teach our
grandchildren to speak. Heaven may grant it to her; but it is not my
THE UNLUCKY WEATHERCOCK.
It seems as if fortune delighted in extending her hand favourably
towards some individuals, while to others she only puts it forth to
deceive and buffet them through life. Her caprices have furnished us
with a lively example in both manners of dealing. We relate the simple
facts as we heard them, without adding a word.
Towards the close of 1848, war was the only theme in vogue. In Pesth
especially, the word peace was quite out of fashion. The hotels
were filled with guests who met for the purpose of discussing the
favourite topic; martial music was heard from morning till night: the
European war was preparing.
Two personages were sitting together before a small table at the
hotel Nagy Pipa, to whom the German saying might have been
appliedDer eine schweigt, der andere hört zu, for one of
these two personages seemed attentively considering the probable or
possible cause of his companion's silence, casting, from time to time,
a scrutinizing glance on his countenance, intended to penetrate
whatever dark project might be passing within.
[Footnote 57: Great Pipe.]
[Footnote 58: One keeps silence, the other listens to him.]
This observant individual was no other than the humane Master Janos,
Police-corporal, and vice-jailer of the noble city of Pesth; and when
we inform our readers that he occupied this post during Metternich's
time, and that, notwithstanding that minister's overthrow, he still
retained his position, unlike the usual fate of the adherents of a
fallen ministry, they will surely admit that the favourite of fortune
could not be better personified than by the same Master Janos; nor can
it be denied that the individual opposite was no less persecuted by the
fickle goddess, not only because he was the object of honest Master
Janos's suspicious glances; but more especially because a nailsmith's
apprentice from Vienna could think of coming to Hungary of all places
on eartha country where the craft is carried on wholesale at the
corner of every village, by the Wallachian gipsies.
Master Janos had not studied Lavater, but long experience had led
him to conclude, after minute examination of the man's countenance,
that some counter-revolutionary scheme was turning in his head.
Consequently he drew his chair nearer, and determined to break the
Where do you come from, sir? if I may presume to ask, he inquired,
with a wily glance at his companion.
Hyay! from Vienna, sighed the stranger, looking into the bottom of
And what news from that city?
Hyaee! nothing good.
Eh, what? nothing good!what bad, then?
Hyay! war is much feared.
Feared! what audacity!how dare they fear?
Hyay! sir, I do not fear either at thirty leagues' distance; but
once I heard from the cellar how they were bombarding the streets, and
I found nothing agreeable in it.
Master Janos found still greater reason for suspicion. He resolved
to make him drink, and he would probably come on the traces of some
How much does a nailsmith's stomach require? At the second pitcher
his head sank slowly back, and his tongue moved with difficulty.
Now for it! thought Master Janos, filling his glass. Eljen!
liberty! he exclaimed, waiting for the nailsmith to strike glasses.
The latter was not long in responding to the invitation, and echoed
the Eljen! as far as his thickening tongue permitted.
Now it is your turn to give a toast, said the vice-jailer, slily
eyeing his victim.
Indeed, I am not used to give toasts, sir; I only drink them.
Come, don't play the egotist, but drink to whoever you consider the
greatest man in the world!
In the whole world? replied the nailsmith, reflecting that the
world was very large, and that he knew very little about it.
Yes, in the whole world!the whole round earth! pursued Master
The nailsmith hesitated, scratched his nose, scratched his ear,
scratched his whole head, and, finally, cried out, Success to Master
The vice-jailer shuddered at this public demonstration. It was quite
clear that this Master Slimak was some gunpowder-sworn
commander-in-chiefthere was no doubt of it, and, without any further
ado, he seized the nailsmith by the collar, and, brevi manu,
escorted him to the town-hall, where he dragged him into a narrow,
ominous-looking chamber, before a stout, red-faced gentleman.
This man is a suspicious character, he exclaimed. In the first
place, he has the audacity to fear war; in the next place, he sat from
seven o'clock until half-past nine, two whole hours and a half, without
opening his lips; and, finally, he was impious enough to give a public
toast to a certain Master Slimak, who is probably quite as suspicious a
character as himself.
Who is this Master Slimak? asked the stout, red-faced gentleman,
Nobody, indeed, replied the trembling Viennese, but my former
master, an honest nailsmith, whom I served four years, and would be
serving still, had his wife not beaten me.
Impossible! ejaculated the fat, red-faced gentleman. It is not
customary to give public toasts to such personages.
But I don't know what the custom is here.
If you wished to give a toast, why did you not drink to
constitutional liberty, to the upper and lower Danube armies, or to
freedom of the press, and such toasts?
Hyay, sir! I could not learn all that in a month!
But in three months I daresay you will be able to learn it well
enough. Master Janos, take that man into custody.
The humane Master Janos again seized the delinquent by the collar,
ut supra, and escorted him to the place appropriated to such
malefactors, where he had time to consider why he was put there.
* * * * *
The three months passed slowly enough to the nailsmith. It was now
the middle of March.
Master Janos punctually released his prisoner, and the honest man,
in order to prove the reform in his sentiments, and thereby rise in
Master Janos's opinion, greeted him with, Success to liberty, and the
Master Janos stumbled against the wall in speechless horror, and as
soon as he had regained his equilibrium, he seized the astonished
nailsmith, who, when he had recovered his terrified senses, found
himself again in the narrow, ominous chamber; but now, instead of the
stout, red-faced gentleman, he stood before a lean, black gentleman,
who, when he understood the charge against the prisoner, without
permitting any explanation, condemned him to three months'
imprisonment, informing him that henceforth, unless he wished to fare
worse, he would exclaim, Success to the imperial armies, the great
constitution, and the one and powerful Austria!
And the nailsmith, having made three steps beyond his prison door,
was brought back to renew his captivity, and ponder over his strange
* * * * *
The three months had again passed over. It was some time in June.
The humane Master Janos did not fail to release his captive. The
poor man began at his prison door to declaim the redeeming words of
Long live Prince Windischgrätz! success to glorious Austria!
Master Janos laid his hand upon his sword, as if to protect himself
from this incorrigible man.
What! was it not enough to imprison you twice? Have you not yet
learned what you should say? Have the kindness to step in here.
And for the third time they entered the narrow chamber.
Instead of the meagre, black gentleman, it was again the fat,
red-faced gentleman before whom our victim was called in question for
his repeated crime.
Obstinate traitor! he exclaimed; are you aware of the extent of
your offence, and that if I did not condemn you to an imprisonment of
three months on my own responsibility, instead of giving you up to
justice, you would be cut into four quarters, as you deserve?
The unhappy nailsmith must needs rejoice, in his extreme terror, at
the mildness of the punishment.
But what should I have said? he asked his lenient judge, in a
voice of despair.
What should you have said? why, Success to the republic! Success to
democracy! Success to revolution!
The poor man repeated the three injunctions, and promising
faithfully to attend to them, he resigned himself patiently to a new
lease of his dark abode.
* * * * *
During the ensuing three months, everything had changed except the
good fortune of Master Janos. Neither time nor chance could succeed in
displacing him, as they had so many others. He was still vice-jailer of
the noble city of Pesth, as he had formerly been.
It was now September. The nailsmith's penalty was out, and Master
Janos called him forth.
The prisoner's countenance expressed something unusually important,
and no sooner did the vice-jailer approach, than, seizing his hand, he
exclaimed, between his sobs, Oh, Master Janos, tell the black
gentleman that I humbly kiss his hand, and wish him from the bottom of
my heart, 'Success to the Republic!'
As the hungry wolf pounces on the lamb, Master Janos once more
seized the nailsmith by his ill-used collar; and indeed, so shocked was
the worthy jailer, that, having brought his prisoner into the narrow
chamber, it was some time before he could recover himself sufficiently
to explain the circumstance to the lean, black gentleman, who once more
occupied the place of the fat, red-faced one; and great was his
vexation when this individual, instead of sentencing the delinquent to
be broken on the wheel, merely awarded him three months more
On the third of November 1849, all who had been imprisoned for
slight political offences were released from their confinement, and
among others the nailsmith.
As Master Janos opened the door, the unfortunate man stopped his
mouth with his pocket-handkerchief, giving the humane jailer by this
pantomime to understand, that he would henceforth keep his
demonstrations to himself.
It might have been some consolation to him to know that he was not
the only one who cried out at the wrong time!
THE TWO BRIDES.
Some years ago, there lived in Szolnok a widow with her two
daughters. It was a long time since the lady had been made a widow, and
yet she still wore her weeds; and every year she grew paler and weaker,
as she drew nearer to her husband's grave. But two sweet buds still
blossomed beside the withered stem; and Ilka and Aniko grew more and
more lovely as their bridal-day approached,for they each wore
betrothal rings, and their young bridegrooms were noble, handsome, and
generous youths. They were both in the army; and though far from their
native land, every month brought a letter from each, full of affection
and of hope. It was now two months, however, since news had come. They
are surely coming home themselves, said Ilka and Aniko, and there was
comfort in the thought.
* * * * *
It was the last day of the yearthat day of thanksgiving for the
past, and hope for the future, which we love to pass in the midst of
friends and family, while many a national song and warm greeting are
exchanged, as the bowl passes round the hospitable board.
But the last day of 1848 saw no wassail bowl in Szolnok, no
hospitable meetings to hail the new-born year.
All day and through the night the whistle of the train was heard, as
it came and went incessantly; and the arrivals and departures being at
uncertain hours, the terminus was crowded with people wearing gloomy
and anxious countenances, while the new-comers gazed perplexed around
them, ignorant whither to turn in the confused and unknown town.
Beyond the terminus, heavy baggage-carts had overturned numerous
unclaimed wares; while, farther off, uncovered waggons stood about, and
great guns, chests bearing the Government seal, arms, vessels, and
articles of clothing, lay strewn unheeded all around.
Again the train came in with cold and anxious passengers, while
outers pressed into the vacant seats; and many who had waited all day
in vain, finding no places, were obliged once more to return weary and
Armed and official men alighted from the nearest coaches, and again
the terminus was crowded. Women closely veiled and muffled, pale
trembling girls, and little children were there also, taking a hurried
farewell, or waiting anxiously for expected friends and relatives; and
many were the unheeded inquiriesan hundred questions put for every
And now the train was filled with military, whose wild songs chimed
strangely with the noise of the machinery.
Meanwhile, all was hurry and confusion within the town: each
individual seeming occupied by his especial grievanceseach felt alone
among the thousands who surrounded them. The new-comers went from house
to house, asking lodgings and warmth from inmates more wretched than
themselves. Powerful magnates, whose palaces had been scarcely large
enough for their numerous guests and retinues, were glad to find
shelter on the earthen floor of a reed cottage; while ancient enemies,
whose feuds had made a kingdom too small to contain them, now shared
their broken fortunes in one room; and high-born maidens, accustomed to
every refinement, received with thankfulness the benches proffered by
strangers, who found a scarcely harder bed upon the earthen floor.
On the other side of Szolnok, numerous vehicles pursued their course
in long unbroken lines, moving with difficulty on the frozen uneven
roads, and filled with men, women, and childrencold and anxiety
depicted in every countenance. Whole caravans passed on foot, in
miserable clothing, carrying empty sacks, and followed by carts loaded
with iron machines and broken weapons, on the tops of which women and
children lay huddled together in blankets and rugs. One or two
noblemen's calèches, with the windows drawn up, were obliged to follow
slowly in the rear of these creaking machines, which the badness of the
roads, or the steep banks, made it impossible to pass.
Thus closed the last day of the old year, and the first day of the
new was a weary repetition of similar scenes.
The trains moved again all day and all night, bringing more anxious
and gloomy countenances, baggage, coaches, and cannon. Those who had
arrived yesterday hastened on to-day, while the fresh comers again
sought shelter from house to house, and the lingerers still awaited the
next coachessearching in vain for relatives, or friends, or trunks.
On the opposite side of the Theiss, the carriages of the fugitives
seemed to have no end. Here and there a few mat-covered vehicles might
be seen, where a mother, hastening to join her husband's flight, had
brought her infant in its cradle; but the rest being mostly uncovered,
were exposed to the chill blast and the drifting snow, which seemed to
turn every face to stone.
Travellers were seen crossing the inhospitable waste from morning
till night, and all night again till morning; while the little inns, at
the distance of a day's journey on the puszta, were empty and deserted.
Troops of riders, and heavy cannon, pursued their doubtful path
among the hills, or, stopped up by the snow, were obliged to remain
stationary till chance should bring them assistance, or they should
perish in the cold.
And so it continued on the second, third, fourth, fifth day; on the
sixth the movement ceased, and all was silent. The train brought only
one or two passengerstaciturn and moody, like the rest. Clerks and
officials left their places and retired; the lingerers took their
lonely and sad way home; and the cannon, chests, and baggage, which had
not hitherto been removed, were left on the roads to the care of fate.
* * * * *
The last fugitives had left the town with break of day: all was
calm, silently awaiting the mysterious future.
Towards noon, the beating of drums and the sound of the trumpet
announced the entrance of the Hungarian army. The troops had an hour's
rest, and received a hearty welcome from citizens who willingly shared
their last morsel with the national guards, after their many
vicissitudes, and days and nights of hardship and privation.
A hussar officer rode up to the widow's house. He was a handsome,
slender youth, whose raven hair and moustache formed a striking
contrast to the olive paleness of his complexion. He wore a double gold
cord on his crimson csako, and his breast was already decorated. As he
entered the house his dark eye flashed with pleasure, and all his
efforts to be serious could ill restrain a smile.
That smile betrayed him!
Gejza! exclaimed the widow and her daughters together; and then
there was a rush, and a mutual embracethe first affectionate, the
next playful, and the last long and warm.
I knew you would come, whispered Ilka, as he pressed her again and
again to his heart. How long will you stay with us?
As long as we remain in Szolnok.
And how long will that be?
Perhaps an hour.
Only one hour! And when will you return?
Perhaps soon, perhapsnever.
Ilka clung weeping to her lover's neck, who drew her still closer to
The other sister now approached, and gently chiding Ilka's tears,
she asked in a low, tremulous voice: Where is Laszlo?
He will be here this evening, I believe.
Why did he not come with you?
The hussar hesitated. I am retreating, but he is pursuing.
The colour left the young girl's cheek.
He joined the cuirassiers, continued Gejza, about two months ago,
and nowwe are in opposite ranks.
The sisters looked at each other in consternation.
You fight against each other! exclaimed Ilka; my
bridegroom against my sister's!O merciful Heaven!
And did you not think of us, then? said Aniko.
It is the soldier's fate, my friends: he may love, and be happy;
but when the trumpet sounds he must forget love and happiness, and
think only of stern duty.
Ah, Gejza! you must not fight against each other; we must gain one
of you over to join the other.
It cannot be, my friends; I know Laszlo well, and he is what I am.
A soldier's place is beside his standard: whereever that leads he must
followbe it to death, or against his own brother.
And if you should meet upon the field?
It nearly happened a short time ago. In the skirmish of Teteny we
were scarcely fifty paces apart, when we recognised each other. He
suddenly turned his horse's head, I did the samewe both sought
another enemy; and when the battle was over, both our swords were red.
It is the soldier's fate!
And could you have killed him?
Far rather die myself; and therefore I do not love the swordI
like the cannon much better. Those soldiers are far happier; they never
see the faces of those they kill, or hear their dying groans. More than
once, when the madness of glory has made my brain giddy, I have heard
my name repeated by the enemy I had cut downcalling to me, 'Thanks,
comrade!' as he fell from his horse; and I have recognised some old
school-fellow, or some officer who had left our own regiment. And then,
when I am alone, that 'Thanks, comrade' always
The trumpet sounded before the window. It was the call to march.
The hussar took leave: a short word, a long kiss, a tear hastily
brushed aside, and the next moment he was on his impatient charger, and
neither the tear nor the kiss were to be traced on his calm
Again the trumpet soundedthe troop marched forward, white
handkerchiefs waved from the widow's windowan hour afterwards,
Szolnok was once more deserted and silent.
Towards evening, the sound of martial music was again heard; helmets
and cuirasses gleamed in the setting sun. It was the imperial army,
well clothed and mounted, and in perfect order. Their troops formed a
striking contrast to those which had passed in the morning, who were
dejected by want and suffering.
A young cuirassier had quartered himself in the widow's house; he
was the gayest officer in his regiment, and more particularly now, as
the bridegroom of one of the two fair sisters.
Unlike the young hussar, there was no sadness in his tone; and when
he could think of aught but Aniko's bright eyes, victory shone in his
glancefor he loved his profession, and was ready to shed his blood or
win laurels of glory for it.
Do not fear, sweet friend! he exclaimed, seeing Ilka turn away
with tearful eyes to weep alone; I will bring back your bridegroom
from the first battle to pass his captivity with you.
But the jest pained Ilka.
She replied with pride: Gejza will sooner die than be taken
Weeks and months passed away, and Laszlo's bride was soon to be his
The first victory, he said, shall celebrate our marriage!
The first victory, sighed Ilka, will be his defeat! and
then she wept bitterly. But when the sisters were together, each
restrained her smiles and her tears so as not to grieve the other.
One day Laszlo whispered gravely to Aniko, This day week there will
be a battle! and the warm pressure of his hand seemed to say, and our
victory; while the deep blush on the bride's cheek seemed to reply,
And our wedding!
Both girls prepared a dress in secret for that day. Aniko's was
white embroidery, as for a bridal; Ilka's was simple black!
* * * * *
The imperial troops remained several months in Szolnok, during which
time they had raised strong fortifications.
An extensive redoubt guarded the tête de pont on the opposite
side of the Theiss. Palisades were constructed to screen the
tirailleurs between the entrenchments, before which a little willow
thicket concealed a battery of field-pieces.
Within the fortifications was the pontoon bridge, which the imperial
army had formed after having burnt the great bridge in January.
Before the bridge could be taken, the enemy had first to drive the
troops from their strong entrenchments, and should they even effect
this, they would still be exposed to the cross fire of the redoubt and
the battery concealed in the thicket, and it was impossible to make a
circuit, for the Theiss surrounds two-thirds of the place.
Szolnok is built on the opposite side, and was protected on one side
by the river Zagyva and the impassable morasses of the Theiss, and on
the other by strong ramparts and entrenchments. Within the tête de
pont there were three half-moon bastions, well fortified, and
protecting each other.
The terminus, which lay within gun-shot of a bastion running along
the Theiss, was also strongly fortified by moats and artillery, whose
guns commanded all the defiles leading to it; to the west stood a
chapel, built on a knollthe only elevated position near the place.
An assault from this side was almost impracticable, according to the
rules of tactics, for these bastions could only be taken by a large
force, with guns of great calibre; and, in case of a repulse, the
besiegers would be cut off from all retreat, and exposed to the whole
concentrated main body of the imperial forces in Pesth.
The Zagyva morasses alone remained partly unprotected, an attack
from that side being considered impracticable.
Patrols were stationed along the right bank of the Theiss, as far as
Czibakhaza, which served as a point of passage to the Hungarians,
though, according to the information of spies, there were no forces
there at present, excepting a few reserve corps, the two Hungarian
corps d'armée having united at Torokszentmiklos, under Vecsey and
The attack was consequently expected from that quarter; and,
according to the spies' reports, the day was fixed, and the station
appointed on the opposite side of the Theiss.
* * * * *
There is a ferry between Szolnok and Czibakhaza, and the boat is
guided by the simple means of a rope drawn across the river.
The boat was now on the opposite side, some persons having just
crossed with the permission of the imperial party, who kept a patrol to
guard the passage.
On the evening of the expected day, two hussars rode up to the ferry
from the opposite side.
Do you see that boat? cried the elder of the two, as they reached
I see it, corporal, replied the other, who appeared to be a
Whether you see it or not, we must cross there.
Very well, corporal.
Don't argue with me when the order is to cross; we must
cross, were a thousand fiery devils on the other side!Hej! come out,
thou slug! he continued, knocking at the door of the boatman's hut.
Thou, indeed! grumbled a voice from within; I'll hear
something more civil first!
No arguing, nephew, but turn out, unless you wish your house turned
upside down, and yourself left under the clear sky!
An old grayheaded man appeared. It is a long time since I was
called 'nephew,' he murmured.
How old are you? asked the hussar.
Some sixty years.
Pooh! thou art a boy, nephew! I am five years thy senior;
As the boat put off with the hussars, a chasseur, who was
observing their motions from the other side, called across the water in
Cannot you see that we are hussars? was the reply, in Hungarian.
The soldier levelled his musket and fired, and the ball went through
the old hussar's csako. He turned impatiently to the recruit, who had
moved his head as the ball whistled past his ear.
Why do you bend your head?the balls must fall on one side or on
the other; and thou, nephew, get from under my horse, and pull away by
The peasant, who was lying on his face at the bottom of the boat,
never felt less inclined to obey in his life, especially as fifty or
sixty grenadiers appeared from behind the entrenchments, and began
firing on the hussars.
Dismount and guide the boat, said the old hussar, turning to the
The chasseur, seeing that the balls had no effect, ran down
to the rope, which he cut with his sword, as the hussars reached the
middle of the stream, and the boat was consequently borne back again by
the current. The old hussar, swearing that he was not done with them
yet, gloomily reascended the bank with his companion, and galloping
back to his troop, which was concealed in a wood at a little distance,
he reported himself to the captain.
What news, Gergo? asked Gejzafor it was he.
It would not do, captain, as I said before; they did not like our
numbers, so they cut the rope when we were half over; they might
have allowed me to cross if I had been alone.
Never mind, Gergohow did we get over the water before boats were
Ah, I thought of that, captain dear; but it is my duty to obey, and
not to argue.
Now, lads, whoever likes a bath may follow me! cried the young
soldier, and, spurring his horse, he galloped towards the river
followed by his troop.
It was a beautiful sight to see the hundred and fifty hussars go
through the water, like a flock of wild birds through the aironly
their horses' heads above the foam, and the breeze tossing about the
plumes of their red csakos.
The grenadiers having fired one volley with little or no effect,
suddenly retired, and were at some distance when the hussars reached
the opposite bank.
By this manoeuvre the patrol of the Czibakhaza ferry was cut off
from Szolnok, while Damjanics was meanwhile rapidly advancing towards
The hussars took prisoners all the couriers and passengers upon the
road; and late at night the avant-garde crossed at Czibakhaza,
and pressed forward on Szolnok, a reconnoitring party sustaining a
brisk fire all the way to Kecskemet.
The same night, Damjanics reached the Theiss at Czibakhaza with his
whole army, and advanced by forced marches on Szolnok, before the
General of the district had been apprised of his approach.
* * * * *
It was a beautiful evening in spring. The sisters sat side by side
at the window of their little chamber, silently watching the stars as
they twinkled into light. Neither spoke, for each feared to grieve the
other by expressing her hopes or fears; but their tears mingled as they
sat clinging to one another, each pale face seeking comfort from the
othertheir hands clasped, and their hearts raised in prayer.
To-morrow, one may return triumphant from the battle to lay his
laurels at his bride's feet. And the otherwhat may be his fate?
Sleep at last brought rest to the weary eyes, and gave back its
restrained feelings to each beating heart, and they appeared again in
dreams. And one spoke, not of war, nor of his country, but of love
alone, eternal and unchangeable; but the other only came to bid
farewell, silently and sadly. And then again she saw him; but his dark
eyes were closed, and the pale moonbeams bathed his dying brow.
Their mother heard them murmuring in sleep, and stole to their
Tears rolled down one pale sleeper's face; while a bright smile was
playing on the other's, and illumined its sweet repose.
* * * * *
Damjanics' army halted opposite Szolnok during the night, after two
hours' march, and awaited in battle order, and without watch-fires, the
signal to resume the march.
The roar of cannon on the opposite side of the Theiss was the
The Hungarian General had seen several campaigns. Whenever he came
up with the enemy, his quick glance discovered as if by instinct their
strongest point, and there he directed all his force, crying, at the
head of his troops, Follow me!
His system, however, was not generally approved of in the army. Many
of the Generals affirmed that it was not enough to gain a battle:
attention must be paid to the rules of war, various obligations
attended to for which every General is responsible, proclamations
issued, harangues made, &c.with all of which Damjanics dispensed. He
was neither a statesman nor a studenthe was simply a soldier.
On quitting the Banat, however, he issued the following proclamation
to his enemies:
I retire at present, but I will return.
If in the meantime you dare stir, I will sweep you from off the
face of the earth, and then shoot myself through the head as the last
Raczien, that no remnant of our race may be left!
[Footnote 59: Damjanics was by birth a Racz or Raczien, who were the
bitterest enemies of the Hungarians, and committed many excesses and
cruelties during the rebellion of 1848-9. The proclamation is here
translated word for word.]
The results of this first attempt so much encouraged the General,
that he determined, of the many necessary things required of him, to
harangue his troops before the next action, and actually made a vow to
* * * * *
It was the night before the battle of Szolnok.
Singular! muttered the General, as he paced up and down his tent;
my spirits were wont to rise before a battle, and now I feel as
anxious as if the thought of to-morrow were unwelcome! And he strove
to solve in his own mind the cause of such unusual gloom.
Some time after, an officier de corps remarked within the
General's hearing, that to-morrow they should have the famous harangue.
The tartar take it! exclaimed the General; it was that made me
feel as if I could creep out of my skin. But never fearthey shall
have it, and the enemy shall pay for it!
The General had finished his plans of battle in a quarter of an
hour;the speech was not ready late in the morning.
Having arranged his troops in order, he rode out before them. They
all knew that he was to harangue them that day, and they knew that it
was as great a sacrifice on his part as if he were to deliver up his
battery to a parliamentary tribunal for half a day.
Halting before the standard of the ninth battalion, he lifted his
csako, grew very pale, and began:
At that instant, the guns thundered across the Theiss.
The General's countenance suddenly brighteneddiction and
phraseology were forgotten; and drawing his sword, he cried in a voice
of thunder,There is the enemy! Follow me! which was answered by a
tremendous cheer, while the whole army dashed after their gallant
leader towards the cannon's roar.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Vecsey's corps d'armée stormed the ramparts on the
opposite side of the Theiss.
The attack, however, was only apparent: the manoeuvre of either
party frustrated the other.
The imperial troops endeavoured to entice the enemy within their
cross fire by charges of cavalry and feint retreats; while the hussars,
seeing the cuirassiers turn in good order, gave the command right
about, and quietly returned to their stations.
And now the Hungarians prepared to storm the entrenchments; and when
the battalions were almost within gunshot, they advanced their cannon,
and without any impediment poured a vigorous fire on the
rampartsappearing to expend their whole strength before the enemy,
while their real aim was totally different.
They were only answered here and there by a gun from the ramparts;
but the battery concealed in the wood did not give the slightest
intimation of its existence, it being expected that the enemy would
make an attack, as the place was apparently feebly defended, and the
imperialists engaged on all sides, and, purposely, giving them every
But the attack was not made. This continued till about noon. The
distant spectator could observe nothing but the continual motion of
regular masses. One or two troops of heavy cavalry marched quietly up
to the field of action, their helmets gleaming in the bright sun of a
cloudless day. A division of hussars galloped by with drawn swords:
long lines of infantry suddenly formed into squares, and fired on the
passing cavalry. At another point, the treacherous gleam of bayonets in
the moat betrayed the stealthy approach of troops, upon which the
adjacent battery suddenly galloped to a little eminence, from whence
they began to fire. But no regular engagement had taken place; the On,
Magyar! on! and the hussars' Ha! on! were not yet heard. The whole
was a mere animated play of arms. Trumpets sounded, drums beat, cannon
fired; but they were unaccompanied by battle-cries or dying
groansdeath still greedily awaited the onset.
* * * * *
Suddenly the great guns thundered across the Theiss.
Swift and unexpected, like the descent of lightning from heaven, was
Damjanics' appearance at Szolnok, and it was hailed by a tremendous
cheer from the besieging partylife announcing death! Again the cannon
The besiegers did not find the imperial army unprepared, although
this attack was unexpected; but there were not many troops on that side
of the ramparts, which was principally protected by cannon.
The Hungarians advanced in a semicircle, the Szeged battalion in the
centre, composed chiefly of recruits armed with scythes, on the right
the red-caps, and the hussars on the left.
The enemy's guns opened a deadly fire from every side, and yet they
advanced like the tempest-cloud through which the lightning passes,
changing its form without impeding its course. The balls made fearful
inroads among themthey fell right and left, covering the place with
the dead and wounded; and many a dying soldier, raising his head for
the last time, gazed long and earnestly after his standard, till it
disappeared amidst the fire of the enemywhen, cheering yet again, he
sank to rise no more.
The Szeged battalion came up first with the foe, rushing impetuously
onfor their arms were useless till face to face with their enemy.
They stormed the battery of the terminus, from which the cannon fired
incessantlyone ball sweeping off fourteen at a time; but they only
hastened the more furiously over the dead bodies of their comrades. One
moment moreseveral guns opened at once, and a hundred mangled bodies
and headless trunks rolled in the dust and smoke. The next instant, the
troops which guarded the battery were scattered on every side: the
artillery stood valiantly by their guns to the last man. As the
besiegers advanced, they were assailed by a hot fire from the windows
of the houses, and from behind the barricades. The conflict was long
and desperate. At last, the tricoloured banner waving from the windows
announced that the besiegers were victorious.
This was the first action in which the Szeged battalion had been
engaged, and for numbers among them it was the last.
Meanwhile the red-caps marched steadily on to the flying bastions.
Unlike the young corps, these troops knew how to give place to the
enemy's balls, and never fired in vain; nor did they cover their eyes
from the fearful carnage around them, as most of the young troops did,
for death was familiar to them in all its forms. This was their
seventeenth engagement, and in each they had been foremost in the
The entrenchments were guarded by a body of chasseurs, who
kept up a constant harassing fire on the advancing troops.
The latter quickly thinned their lines, and forming into chain,
rushed on the entrenchments, heedless of the musket firetheir
standard-bearer foremost in the attack. A musket ball cut the staff of
the standard in two, and the soldier, placing the colours on his sword,
rushed on as beforeanother ball, and the standard-bearer fell
mortally wounded, holding up the colours with his last strength, till a
comrade received it on the point of his bayonet.
They reached the bulwarks, and, climbing on each other's shoulders,
their bayonets soon clashed with those of the enemy. An hour later,
they were in possession of the ramparts. The chasseurs, repulsed
by their desperate attack, retreated to the tête de pont, where
they rallied, under cover of some troops which had come to their
assistance. The red-caps were soon engaged with these fresh troops, and
their battle-cry was heard on the opposite side.
Meanwhile Vecsey's troops advanced impetuously to the redoubt, part
of the garrison of which had hurried towards Szolnok, where the action
had begun; but the most desperate engagement was below the chapel. A
regiment of chasseurs were drawn up en carré on the
plain, and were twice charged by the hussars, and twice repulsed; the
third time they succeeded in breaking the square, the horses dashing in
among the bayonets, and in an instant all was confusion. The
chasseurs retreated to the chapel bulwarks, where they endeavoured
to rally, but were pursued by the artillery, and, cut off from all
possible retreat to the town, they fled in disorder, and were pursued
to the Zagyva; there, although the most desperate once more made a
stand, the rest were driven into the stream, and many an empty csako
was borne down the blood-stained water.
Suddenly a cuirassier regiment was seen galloping from the opposite
side, towards the scene of action, their helmets and swords gleaming
through clouds of dust. The hussars quickly formed to receive the new
enemy, and, without waiting for their attack, dashed forward to the
It was like the meeting of two hurricanes: one a mighty, moving
bastion, advancing in such exact order, it seemed as if the thousand
men and steeds had but one pulse; the other troops, light and swift as
the wind, their spirited little horses neighing and dashing on before,
as if each wished to be first in the encounter; the various coloured
pelisses and plumes of their riders tossed about in the wind, and their
swords flashing over their heads.
Hurrah! hurrah!Rajta! rajta!
The mutual collision broke the order at once. The troops on either
side divided into parties, fighting man to man; here a cuirassier was
surrounded by the hussars, and there a hussar in the midst of
cuirassiers; the attacking party now advancing, now retreating, as the
antagonists on either side gained strength.
For some time only the two standards waving high above, and here and
there a soldier's face, and the gleam of straight and curved swords,
were seen through the smoke and dust; and now the wind blew the dust
aside, and exposed the bright helmets, the excited countenances, the
maddened horses, many of which galloped about with empty saddles, while
their riders lay trodden on the field.
The clash of swords resounded on all sides, mingled with cries of
victory and the groans of death.
A tall and powerful cuirassier galloped about like the genius of
battledeath seemed in each flash of his sword; he rode his third
horse, two having already been shot under him.
Clouds of dust and smoke again veiled the combatants, and nothing
could be seen but the two bannersnow pressing forward, now retarded,
but slowly approaching, and cutting a deadly passage towards each
Old Gergo was engaged with two cuirassiers, his ardour unmingled
with the impetuosity of youth; and even in the midst of the fray he
found time to instruct the young recruit, illustrating his theory by
many a prompt example.
A troop of hussars now dashed forward and were met by an equal
number of cuirassiers; their leaders, being on the right of their
troops, had not yet met face to face, but, foremost to the charge, they
showed a good example, while each man fought as if he alone were
responsible for the honour of his party. The right flank on either side
pressing back the foe's left, they both turned round the centre, like a
stiff axlethe hussars occupying the place of the cuirassiers, and the
latter that of the hussars.
In the heat of the action, their leaders recognised each
otherLaszlo and Gejza! But the discovery produced no waveringboth
were determined to conquer or to die.
Meanwhile another troop came up to the assistance of the
cuirassiers, and the hussar captain was obliged to cut his way out from
between two fires, and thus came face to face with his antagonist.
Surrender, comrade! cried Laszlo.
Never! cried the hussar, as he galloped to the charge.
The sword of death was raised in either hand, their glances darted
fire; for a moment they remained motionless, as if spell-bound, their
swords still raisedthe next both turned with one accord upon the
nearest foes. Laszlo's sword pierced the heart of a hussar, while Gejza
dealt such a blow on a cuirassier's helmet that he fell without a
groan, and then, without turning, he cut his way through the enemy's
ranksHurrah! hurrah!rajta! And the battle-cry mingled with the
clash of swords and the groans of the dying.
Meanwhile a division of cuirassiers marched rapidly through Szolnok
to take the hussars in the rear.
Suddenly, at the turn of a street, two hundred red-caps stood before
them. Both parties were taken by surprise at the unexpected encounter.
It was but a moment. The next, an engagement took place of which we
find few instances in history, namely, infantry attacking cavalry. The
two hundred red-caps suddenly fired on the cuirassiers, and then,
shouting wildly, rushed upon them with their bayonets; and the veteran
troops, who had stood so many fires, whose valour alone had turned the
day at Mor, were obliged to retreat before the fearful attack.
This circumstance occurred but twice during the whole campaign.
Görgei was the first who attempted it, with the Inczed battalion, at
the time of his first retreat; that same battalion (eleventh) which so
gallantly defended the bridge of Piski, where more than half their
[Footnote 60: In Transylvania.]
An old Polish soldier who witnessed the combat, made the following
remark:I have seen the battles of the ancienne garde, and
fought with the Polish legion, but I never saw men fight like the
By this attack the cuirassiers were cut off from their head forces,
and, pressed by Vecsey on the opposite side, they retreated hastily,
without having time to save their cannon or destroy the bridge after
The imperial forces, thus pressed between two fires, were obliged to
evacuate Szolnok, and retreat among the Zagyva morasses.
After their desperate conflict with the red-caps, the cuirassiers
were again routed by a fresh regiment of hussars, and driven into the
Zagyva; but few of the weary horses had strength to struggle through
the water, and their heavy armour prevented the men from swimming: thus
many sank in the stream.
* * * * *
It was evening when the battle was over. Horses without riders were
galloping about the plain, while here and there a wounded steed neighed
mournfully, as if searching for his master. Powder-waggons and cannon
lay overturned on the field, which was strewed with the dead and dying.
The trumpet sounded the retreat, and the hussars assembled from
every side, their horses rearing and prancing as if they had come out
for the first time that day.
An hour afterwards, the sound of music was heard in every
guinguette, and the hussars' spurs clinked to the gay cymbal and
clarionet. The battle was forgotten; it was now the time for mirth.
Old Gergo treated his comrades. He was rich enoughfor he had
killed an officer of rank; and though his pupil the recruit could
scarcely keep his feet, he continued to treat him in spite of his
But if we drink it all now, corporal, we shall have nothing left
Don't argue with me, but drink; that's the order now, and to-morrow
will take care of itself; and the soldiers drank on, while their
companions danced and shouted to the gay sounds. All was feasting and
revelry within the town.
But without, upon the battle-field, what painful sounds hailed the
fall of evening?it was the fearful groans of the dying! What sad
thoughts called forth those sighs from the parting spirit! Home, glory,
mother, and beloved ones,never to meet again! The evening breeze
bears them away: whither?
An officer of hussars went over the field with a military surgeon,
while his soldiers bore the wounded away on their arms.
The young officer turned mournfully from one sad spectacle to
another. Here lay a young soldier in the bloom of youth, the point of a
sword had pierced through his cuirass and come out behind; and from
whose hand had that thrust come? a little farther, lay another, whose
face was so cut, and disfigured by the dust, that none could have
recognised it! and now his eye rested on a young hussar who lay on his
back, his outstretched arm still grasping his sword, over which the
fingers were closed so stiffly that it was impossible to release it;
near him an old soldier had died, with his arm around the neck of his
horse, which had been killed along with him, like two old comrades whom
death could not part.
The young officer carefully surveyed the field, and his quick eye
passed none over. He had reached a little knoll, where, half concealed
among some bushes, a white form seemed to move. It was a young
cuirassier officer, who lay with his face buried in the long grass.
The hussar knelt down to raise his head, and called for assistance.
Thanks, comrade! said the dying youth faintly, as he turned his
face towards him.
The last rays of the setting sun shone on the handsome, pale
countenance, the closing eyes, and the deep wound just below the heart.
Laszlo! groaned the hussar, is it thus we meet?
Lay me on the grass, brother; I am dying, said the cuirassier
faintly. Alas! my bride will wait in vain!
The surgeons examined the wound, and pronounced it mortal; he had
but a few moments to live.
Tell my bride, said the young man, in scarcely audible accents,
that my last thought was of herand bury me where she may come and
The young hussar sobbed bitterly beside his dying friend. Alas!
that we must partthat one of us must die!
God bless you, brotherbe happy! murmured Laszlo, convulsively
grasping Gejza's hand; poor Aniko! and his head sank on his comrade's
The sun's last rays had set, and the pale moon rose, shedding her
quiet beams on the closed eyes and silent lips!
The long-looked-for day had come and gone; that day so full of hope
and fear for the young sisters.
It had brought grief and joy; but the joy was not for the hopeful,
nor the tear for the trembling heart, though one stood at the altar,
and the other at the lonely grave; and one indeed wore the white and
the other the black dress, but neither wore that which she had
Nature had endowed Vendel Hornyicsek, the brewer of B, in the
county of Raab, with five hundred and seventy nine pounds of standard
weight; and he was not the man to turn tail before a stuffed lamb and
any given quantity of beer.
His head was a complete circle, a worthy rival for any pumpkin
produced on the sunniest plain; and Mount Ararat itself might have
blushed in the vicinity of his nose. He had only one eye, which you
might have suspected he had borrowed ad usum from some
misanthropic moleit was small, green, and peculiarly adapted to
sleep; but mother Nature was not unjust, and what she curtailed in one
feature she amply refunded in another, by bestowing more than ordinary
proportions on the mouth, into which capacious aperture the four-quart
tankard would certainly have disappeared altogether had it not been
held fast by its two handles. Except, however, to receive the contents
of the tankard, the good man seldom made use of this feature. It is
true that he could speak nothing but the German and Bohemian languages,
in which he had been born and bred; for though he had lived thirty
years in the county of Raab, he had never been able to make himself
understood in the Hungarian language, and certainly he found no living
creature, unless it were those travelled gentlemen, the storks, to
address him in his native tongue. Moreover, Vendel Hornyicsek gazda
was not a lover of great commotion; he was by no means ambitious. He
would sit quietly in the chimney-corner from morning till night,
replenishing his interior with ample potions of the genuine
barley-bree, and turning in his mind some philosophy peculiarly his
own. He never dined at regular hours, or rather he dined at every hour
of the day; it was a continual, unwearied struggle with his
appetitethat invincible Antæus, who, as often as he was overcome,
rose with redoubled strength to renew the attack; and these struggles
did not cease with the day, like the labour of ordinary mortals, but he
was accustomed to wake at night and strive to satisfy the cravings of
the voracious monster. A pitcher of unusual dimensions was regularly
placed by his bedside, just within comfortable reach of his hand; for
it was his firm belief that whoever goes hungry to bed dreams of being
devoured by Pharaoh's lean kine; it was probable, however, that he
would have despatched the whole seven had they come to an actual
[Footnote 61: The common name for host or master.]
In the village of Bthey still exhibit as a relic his flannel
stockings, each of which would have contained at least a Presburg peck
of anything you liked to put into it; while a wandering Sclavonian
family might have harboured snugly in his sleeve.
There was not a vestige of a beard on the broad expanse of face,
which was naked as the moon, and blooming as the Pacha's rose. The
corners of his mouth extended upwards, as if they were amusing
themselves at the expense of the eye placed over them, and there was
not the slightest rumour of anything like brow or lash to crown the
eyelid. As an indemnity, however, for such destitution, the chin was
doubled and trebled; indeed, it would have been difficult to decide
where it began and how it ended; and a few orphan hairs endeavoured to
keep their ground on the vast and sterile heath above his ears.
Our worthy host had already disposed of three ribs, or in other
words, he had followed to the grave three wives, each of whom had
weighed above two hundredweight. But what did he derive, after all,
from so many weddings and funerals? To be left alone at last, for the
house to go to wreck and ruin, for the beer to get sour, the bread to
be half baked, and the meat half cooked, while the hawks carried off
his poultry, and the rats his cheese; in short, his whole establishment
went to auction, like the Csakys' straw, till finally in the height
of his distress, Vendel resolvedwhat else could he do?he resolved
to look out for another wife, and actually set about carrying his
project into execution. In former times he had been used to contemplate
and weigh duly every consideration connected with this most important
step, together with the merits requisite in the object of his choice.
She must be plain, that he might have no cause for jealousy; of small
speech, but ample dowry; and her knowledge and accomplishments must
consist chiefly in the noble art of pampuska cookery, with which,
namely, the pampuskas, our worthy host's most sublime ideas of mortal
happiness were connected. Hitherto he had succeeded to the utmost of
his wishes, and three wives adorned with all the requisite virtues had
rendered the pampuska morsel sweet to his lips. Moreover, he had lived
in uninterrupted peace and tranquillity, without having ever had the
slightest cause for uneasiness; on the contrary, the first impulse of
every one who looked at either of the three worthy dames had been to
turn and run as long as there was a road before him.
[Footnote 62: This family is said to have had once such abundant
crops that, in order to get rid of it, they were obliged to let all who
would carry it off.]
[Footnote 63: A sort of frittera Bohemian dish.]
But let no man call himself happy before his deathhe may do so
afterwards if he has a mind; as the wise Racien said a fortnight after
the inundation. Vendel Hornyicsek having for the fourth time resolved
to put on the orban cap, so outwitted his good sense in his advanced
age, as to take to himself a mate who was both young and pretty, and
whose name was Vicza.
The first had been Nani, the second Lotti, the third Zsuzsi, all
good, quiet, pious names. Hey! Vendel, Vendel, why should you have
stumbled upon a Vicza! and such a Vicza too, whose eyes might have
allured the sun from the skies, and each one of whose saucy motions
might have charmed the very curd into life; a Vicza who, instead of
pampuska cakes, baked such witch pogacsok, that he must have been a
very Saturn who ventured to partake of them; and it must be observed,
that although every muscle of this fair Vicza was replete with vivacity
and motion, yet the most flexible part of her whole person was that
small member designated by anatomists the tongue; indeed, it required
no whalebone palate like that of the monster of the deep to emit such
effusions as would clear the whole atmosphere.
[Footnote 64: In Hungarian, the expression is more naïve
sleeping milk being the literal translation.]
[Footnote 65: Bannocks.]
Scarcely had Mistress Vicza placed her foot in her husband's house
when it became an overturned world. Her appearance had much the same
effect as pouring vitriol into water, or putting a leech among the
foals. Every servant was obliged to be on his feet at cockcrowing, and
wo to that cheek on whose sleep the sun shone, for Mistress Vicza's
palm was sure to celebrate it; moreover, she was in the kitchen,
storeroom, barn, fold, stall, in short, everywhere at once, to see that
all was going on in order, and that the folks were not sleeping or
stealing. She saw everything, knew everything, and had a word for
everybody, persecuted and pursued from morning till night whatever was
capable of motion, followed up every command to the very letter, and
was unfailing in her promises, which were invariably threats.
These new arrangements by no means pleased the good Vendel. He could
never sleep beyond daybreak, for all the windows and doors were then
thrown open to let the morning air pass through the rooms; he had
nobody to sit and discourse with to make the time pass, for nobody had
a moment to sit downthe whole household seemed to be on galvanic
springs from sunrise till sunset. He was kept, besides, to regular
meals, and they only dished three times a day for himfor him who had
been accustomed to eat every hour of the twenty-four; and, oh
unparalleled barbarity! he was obliged to forego altogether his nightly
If the unhappy man complained of having nothing to do, a basket of
beans in their husks was placed before him to be peeled, or some other
such employment which he would set to work at with a heavy sigh,
thinking mournfully the while of his three dead partners, and the happy
days which had fled never to return.
But Vendel was a philosopher, and he knew that it was best to submit
with a good grace, for how should he set himself in opposition to the
rising hurricane, or look the lightning in the face? Who indeed would
not have drawn in his head between his shoulders when the capped
Bellona turned with outstretched arm to pour forth the vial of her
wrath in hailstones and coals of fire, lightning flashing from her eyes
and thunder pealing from her mouth? Vendel was not the man to cope with
such elements of war; he would have borne even more for the sake of a
Our worthy host kept a large beer-tavern in the village of B,
which had been hitherto the resort of all the cuirassiers and dragoons
in the neighbourhood, who beguiled every leisure hour in the enjoyment
of the national beverage, while their kind host showed them a
never-failing good example.
A tall stripling of a Moravian youth, meagre as a sign-post, was the
beerhouse Ganymede. One might have thought his master had chosen him
purposely to form a contrast to himself. His mouth was always wide
open, and his eyes, which seemed trying to find their way out of his
head, stared vacantly before him: if he looked at anything at all, it
was apparently with the point of his nose.
From two arms of immeasurable length dangled a huge pair of uncouth
red hands, which looked as though they were not really his own, but
merely borrowed for the day's work, and his awkward legs he seemed
rather to drag after him than to be indebted to their assistance for
the act of propulsion.
To complete the singularity of his appearance, this youth was in the
habit of wearing a coat with long and pointed tails, the sleeves of
which scarcely reached below the elbows, while the ends of the tails
dangled against his ankles; his waistcoat had doubtless boasted of some
very brilliant colouring in days long past, though it would have been
difficult to distinguish the shades at present, and most of the gilt
buttons had only left their ears as a remembrance. Wide csikos
drawers adorned his legs as far as the ankles, beneath which his bare
feet, were thrust into a pair of heelless slippers; a high cravat stood
up around his neck like a halter, in which no less than three
glittering pins of Bohemian stones constituted the especial glory of
[Footnote 66: The csikos, who keep the horses on the plains, are
noted for their wide drawers.]
It was late in the evening. The dogs were barking about the streets,
and the peacocks crying in the neighbouring farm-yard; otherwise the
village was very quiet, the good folks having for the most part retired
to rest with the sparrows.
Master Hans, or Hanzli, as he was commonly denominatedwe have
evaded the question as long as possible, but finally we must
acknowledge that the youth's name was Hanzli; it was no fault of his,
poor fellow! his god-parents were alone to blame; and doubtless, had he
been capable of speech when they so basely betrayed his helpless
innocence, he would have protested against itHanzli thrust his nose
and his arm out of the window, then drew both back, and the window was
The village had been deserted for some weeks by the German soldiery;
and from that day forward the beer-room had become pitifully empty, for
it was only now and then that some desperately thirsty wretch dropped
in by chance, and ventured to slake his thirst with a glass of the
A dim light flickered on the long table, round which leaned
despondingly a dozen of empty chairs. Vendel-gazda sat near the
cupboard, in a red flannel dressing-gown and a pointed white cap with a
blue border; his hands, which were placed on his vast stomach, held a
plated snuff-box, and with his legs outstretched beneath the table, he
snored away to his heart's content, while the much-esteemed goblet
stood before him like an old fat dame with her arms a-kimbo.
Hanzli having closed the shutters, and looked about him to see that
all was right, listened hard for a few moments to his master's deep
breathing, as he bobbed behind the tankard, and then hastily making up
his mind, he shambled over with long strides on tiptoehands, eyes,
and mouth all moving together, as if he were stepping with each of
them, and, pausing before the table, he raised one leg, balanced
himself on the other, and peeped into the depths of the tankard. It was
still half full. This was enough. Having once more peeped into it to
make sure that his imagination was not deceiving him, he seized it by
the two ears, and, raising it to his month, began to draw in the
unoffered beverage, his knees bending under him, and his eyes starting
from his head with the enormous exertion.
As he continued raising the huge tankard till half his head was
within it, a tremendous explosion was suddenly heard in the kitchen, as
if pots and pans were being thrown at somebody's head, which so
startled Hanzli that he emptied the remains of the barley nectar over
his head and shoulders; and what was his mortification when, on
replacing the empty tankard, he encountered Vendel's green eye staring
at him wide open, as if to say, I see you, my lad; and I wish you good
health! but that was not what he said.
Hanzli, my lad, go and see what is broken in the kitchen. Could he
have uttered a severer reproof?
But Hanzli had too much sense and too much confidence in his
master's goodness to believe that he was in earnest; he knew that he
would probably return with the answer that it was his nose that was
broken; and having recovered from his first embarrassment, he merely
drew a long breath terminating in a whistle, and shook his head until
the shake resolved itself into a wave.
Poor Master Vendel! he seemed to say; it was another world in
Mistress Nani's lifetime; you were not then roused from your sleep in
Vendel-gazda replied by a pitiful gaze at Hanzli. He would have
clasped his hands too, but only the tips of his fingers could reach
each other. He looked as if he would have said: My poor lad, Hanzli,
you too have a bad job of it now-a-days; in Mistress Nani's lifetime,
the key of the cellar lived in your pocket, and you were not then
obliged to empty my tankard.
The two countrymen were used to this silent language. They might
have conversed in their own tongue, to be sure. But then, who knowsin
short, there are casesand Vendel and Hanzli were of this opinionin
which least said is soonest mended.
And now Master Vendel's head began to wave very disastrously; his
whole appearance was one large, living, fat complaint. It was like that
feeling which a man experiences when he knows that there is something
the matter with him, something seriously wrong, but cannot exactly tell
what it is.
Hanzli, my lad! he exclaimed at last, in a very weak voice, after
they had exhausted their telegraphic repartee; Hanzli, tell me what is
the matter with you.
Hanzli raised both his shoulders to his ears, extending the palms of
his hands outwards, and lifted his eyebrows to the top of his
foreheadimplying by this gesture that he knew very well what was the
matter with him, but was wise enough to keep it to himself.
Hm! replied Vendel, and was again silent. He would not force the
lad to speakan excellent policy, if intentional; for when words are
not forced, they force themselves. Hanzli by degrees shambled up nearer
his master, and after fidgeting about, coughing, and standing on one
leg, he suddenly turned round, placed his finger on the side of his
nose, and stooping to a level with Vendel's ear, whispered into it:
Indeed, indeed, master, the misfortune is this, and this
alone,that you have no heir.
What have I not, Hanzli?
That you have no son or daughter.
At these words Vendel's eye opened wide, and he struck the table
with a force which sent the four-quart tankard dancing about as if the
tartar were in it; then, holding up his enormous face, he began to look
out of himself. An entirely new idea seemed to thrill through him, as
if he had just been assured that perpetual motion had not yet been
discovered, and that he was the man to discover it.
You are right, Hanzli! he exclaimed; I have no son or daughter;
and what if I had?
Why then, you see, master, said Hanzli, looking behind him at each
word, you see there would be something for the wife to dosomebody to
quarrel with, that you might not be always disturbed; and then you
could sit all day in the large arm-chair drinking and sleeping, and the
children would come and kiss your hand morning and evening, and you
could take them on your knee and tell them of the far-famed
Rübezahl, and if they made a noise you could scold them yourself;
and then, in after years, all the excellent mysteries of the noble art
of brewing would devolve on them, and you would leave a renowned
progeny after you; and how nice all this would be!
[Footnote 67: The subject of an old German legend.]
Vendel's pride felt all the weight of this argument: his eye
glistened, his clenched fists were raised to his mouth, and he smiled
as complacently as a Tyrolian cheese, and sighed so deeply, that it
might have been a hurricane on Lichtenstein's estate. This poetical
turn was still more imposing than the melancholy one, but it did not
last long. Vendel's ideas were forced to descend from their airy
regions, for the door opened, and a profane figure entered, carrying
the pole of a cart as a staff, and advanced with heavy steps to the
farthest end of the long table, where he seated himself on a bench, and
grumbling out, in a tone which would have put a bear to shame, Wine
here! he elbowed himself out of his mantle, and pushed the long pole
The intruder was a middle-aged man, tall and muscular; his skin was
of a dark reddish brown, and shone as if it had been rubbed with oil;
his black knotty hair was divided in the middle, and fell in matted
clusters on either side; and his beard was spiral, and twisted like a
[Footnote 68: Gipsy's farewella byword, because they generally
terminate the last notes of their music by various turns and windings
of the air.]
He wore a high csalma, in the top of which was stuck a red pipe;
and a large brass monogram, the initials of the lord of the domain, was
fastened on one side.
[Footnote 69: A kind of toque worn by the peasants in some
Wine was placed before him, which he swallowed in silence, only now
and then grumbling something inarticulately to himself. When he had
drunk a few glasses, he took the pipe out of his csalma, and lighting
it at the candle, leant upon one elbow and began to smoke. He seemed
upon no ceremony, and was evidently no stranger in the house. Hanzli
stood before him with his mouth open, and his hands behind his back;
and Vendel reclined in his arm-chair, giving full scope to the flights
of his imagination.
At last the silent guest, tired of leaning on one elbow, exchanged
it for the other, and, nodding condescendingly to Hanzli, he emptied
his pipe; and again leaning on his arm, and drawing his mouth fearfully
to one side with his fist, exclaimed: Well, Hanzli deak, have you
heard that the French are coming?
[Footnote 70: Scholar, student.]
Ah, indeed! cried Hanzli, starting; from Turkey?
Hanzli had studied about two years, and knew something of geography.
He could speak a little Hungarian, too, and Moravian, and Germanjust
enough of each to prevent him being sold in any of them (had there been
anybody to buy him), and he jumbled all these languages together so
strangely, that it would have been difficult to say which one he meant
Indeed, I cannot tell that; I do not know where they come from,
replied the guest. But this much is certain, that they all carry their
heads under their arms, have eyes in their shoulders, and when they get
hold of a man they snap his head offkakk it goes!
Hanzli raised his hands to his neck: he thought they had got him
Just so, continued the guest, wiping his bearded chin with the
sleeve of his coat. Then all their generals eat two pounds of iron,
every morning, and wash it down with a pint of vitriol.
By all the saints! exclaimed Hanzli, opening his mouth and eyes;
have you seen them yet, Andras-gazda?
I was at a place where they were talking about them: my godfather's
niece has a bridegroom whose brother is serving with the green csako
hussarsthey have just quartered a troop in the district, and it was
he who related it.
At the word 'hussar,' Vendel's attention began to be excited; it was
the only word he understood in Hungarian, and it brought to his
recollection so much poultry which had been carried off by the kites,
and so many barrels of wine which the great bell had paid, and
still pays for to the present day.
[Footnote 71: In Hungary, there is a proverb that unpaid debts will
be collected by the great bell.]
But it is a bad thing to mention the evil one, for he is sure to be
prowling about the garden; and Vendel-gazda had scarcely time to summon
to his imagination that human being metamorphosed into the inhuman
called a hussar, before the door burst open, as if Sisera's army had
arrived, and six moustached figures, each one smarter and more agile
than the last, entered with a clash of arms, which would have disturbed
the philosophy of any honest peace-loving Bohemian in Christendom; and
instead of seating themselves at the table, as any other reasonable
Christians would have done, they clinked and rattled about here and
there, making jests on the pictures of Cossack feats on the walls, with
their pendants of Spring, Summer, and Winter.
One among them was a singularly handsome youth, with raven hair, and
eyes which flashed like lightning; his pointed dark moustache was
provokingly becoming, and his figure as supple as a young leopard's,
but he was certainly the most unreasonable of the party: he gave no
rest to man or beast, and was the bane of every honest soul with whom
he came in contact. Scarcely had he entered, than he stumbled over
Hanzli, who was gaping in solemn wonder at the new-comers, his back
bent and his neck stretched forward, as if he were trying to personify
the letter S.
Your servant, nephew! exclaimed the hussar, thrusting his fingers
among the youth's hair, and making it all stand on end; well, what
have you been about since we last met?
As they had never met in their lives before, this question and the
cockatoo frisure so embarrassed Hanzli, that he seized the
bottle which stood before Andras-gazda and raised it to his lips, with
as little ceremony as if that good man had not been sitting behind it.
Have you lost your senses? cried Andras-gazda, seizing the tails
of Hanzli's coat.
Make haste, man! cried a voice deeper than any bass fiddle;
thunder and storms! make haste, man, and bring something to drink, or
elseand then followed a torrent of oaths, which it would be
difficult and highly unbecoming to render into any known language.
The voice proceeded from under the huge moustache of the hussar
sergeant, who had seated himself on the bench with an imposing dignity
that became his rank.
Hanzli disappeared, but in a few minutes he shuffled back, and
placed a brilliantly coloured plate before the sergeant.
Did I ask for anything to eat, you stork, that you have brought me
a plate instead of a glass?
Hanzli again disappeared, and returned with a glass of foaming beer,
which he placed before the hussar, handing him a fork at the same time.
What the tartar do you take me for? cried the hussar furiously,
that you should suppose I am going to drink such confounded stuff, as
never before entered the mouth of any of my kindred!
Hanzli's confusion increased at every step, till at last he could
not find his own hands.
Oh, the worthy German dragoons! they were much more reasonable
guests; they knew how to appreciate the good barley-bree! Then each had
his own place, and his own tankard, beside which he would sit half the
night singing honest German songs, or treating of Kant's philosophy,
till some had fallen asleep on their benches, and others under them!
But the Magyar people have no conception of the ecstatic, or of
beer-drinking; and it would be morally impossible to cut German or
philosophy out of their nature.
Vendel-gazda had so completely lost all presence of mind, that he
actually raised the tankard three times to his lips before he perceived
that it was empty. From his earliest childhood he had grown up with the
idea that every honest soul should keep clear of hussar soldiery; but
he was not quite certain as to whether Mistress Vicza had been educated
in the same principles.
Beneath the cupboard, with its head resting on Vendel's slippers,
lay his favourite curly-haired, tail-clipped poodle, emitting now a
half sneeze in its sleep, and now a snarl, as if in sympathy with its
Good evening to you, Master Host, exclaimed the mischief-loving
hussar, at the same time striking him on the shoulder as familiarly as
if he had been one of his own recruits.
Vendel opened his eyesthat is, his eyeas wide as possible; while
the hussar, seizing his enormous palm, gave it such a hearty slap that
the room echoed with the sound, and then shaking it after the Hungarian
fashion till the whole of the fat Colossus trembled like jelly, he sat
down on the bench beside him, and thrust his finger and thumb into the
open snuff-box, which the good man held in the other hand. In trying to
find a place for his feet under the table, he trod so hard on the stump
of the sleeping poodle's tail that it actually crackled, sending the
poor animal howling most lamentably round the room, while his howls
were re-echoed by all the six or eight dogs in the court-yard.
Come, come, don't make such a noise, said the hussar; what if I
had stood on your nose? And as the dog returned to its accustomed
place at its master's feet, he got hold of its head between his knees
and filled its nostrils with snuff; while the poor animal, endeavouring
to bite, bark, and sneeze at the same time, exhibited the most
ludicrous appearance. Everybody in the room was ready to split with
laughter; even Hanzli ventured to grin, and thereby incurred the
displeasure of his gracious master, who turned his eye upon him
severely, as if to say: I take the joke from the soldiers, because
they are hussars; but you are Hanzli, and you have no business to
Meanwhile, poor Vendel's nose grew longer and longer. What a
terrible race! thought he to himself; they respect neither heaven nor
earth, never drink beer, take an honest man's snuff to give it to his
dog, and then laugh at the whole affair! Heaven preserve us! what may
not come next?
Mankind has a singular propensity for thrusting his nose wherever he
hears laughter or noise; and considering this weakness, what should be
more natural than that all the inhabitants of the kitchen should press
to the door of the beer-room to hear what was going on, and
consequently that Mistress Vicza, with her eyes burning like two coals,
should immediately follow in the track of the linen folk?
But no sooner did the sparkling eyes, the rosy cheeks, and the
elastic figure of Mistress Vicza make its appearance, than the hussar
started from his post beside Vendel, and bounded towards the door.
Ah, sweet one! I have not seen you yet, he exclaimed, proceeding
brevi manu to span the small waist of the pretty hostess.
For shame, sir! exclaimed Mistress Vicza, extricating herself from
the hussar's grasp; and then, running over to her husband, she began to
caress and fondle himdrawing his cap over his head, and trying to
make room for herself on the bench beside himthough, at the very
moment she was kissing the dear old man, her bright eyes glanced slily
at the handsome hussar. (Pro memoria to every married manwhen
his wife kisses up one of his eyes, let him look well after her with
Our hero, in order to repair his fault, after looking about him and
twisting his moustache, turned suddenly towards the group of servants
assembled at the door, and seizing the nearest, a plump, rosy-faced
little girl, with long plaited hair tied with gay ribbons, he imprinted
a hearty kiss on her cheek, on which she screamed so loudly that he
started back in alarm, bounding over the tables and chairs in his way.
I'll settle your wits for you, master, if you can't behave better
than that! cried a deep voice in echo to the scream.
How now! what is the matter, countryman? said the hussar, peering
into the bold countenance of the hardy peasant.
'What is the matter?' that girl there is my bride; and I'll soon
let you know what the matter is, if you dare to touch her again!
Ah! is that the case? who knows but that she would prefer me, after
all? replied the hussar, and, leaping over the table, he once more
seized this living organ of sound, who screamed louder than before.
Storms of Karpath! shouted Andras, starting up, and kicking the
bench from before him; then dashing his cap on the ground, he began
tucking up the sleeves of his shirt.
You want to fight, I suppose? said the hussar, smiling
complacently; but swords are not made out of scythes, and you had
better leave a hussar alone.
That I shall not, when he touches my bride, were he a dog-faced
Tartar! I shall beat him not only out of this, but out of the world
too, if he had a thousand souls! I don't care for your sword, Master
Hussar; and loosing the mantle from his neck, the sturdy peasant
seized the pole he had brought with him, and held it forth with an arm
as knotty as an oak.
Don't be foolish, now, Andras! cried the little girl, running over
to the pole-gladiator, and endeavouring to pacify him.
Keep yourself out of the way, Panna, said Andras; this is no time
for trifling; I'll show him who is master here!
Why now, Andras, if you are determined to fight, I will get a
weapon of your own dimensions, and, laughing gaily, the hussar opened
the door and went into the court.
Bring what you like, the beam of a mill, or an oak-tree, I don't
fear you, with six others at your back! cried the athletic labourer,
assuming an offensive and defensive position with his back to the wall.
Don't be reckoning on us, said the sergeant; we have nothing to
say to youthe lad can stand for himself.
You will probably part company soon, muttered Andras, waiting with
open eyes for the hussar's return.
He appeared at length, with neither a mill-beam nor an oak tree, but
a long, slender reed, which he had pulled out of the roof.
What! do you dare to make a fool of me? cried Andras furiously.
Not I, replied the hussar seriously, and stepping up to him, he
began shaking the reed before his antagonist's face, who tried in vain
to catch it, growing more impatient every instant, as the reed tickled
his nose and mouth, and the gay laugh of the hussar rang in his ears,
till at last, maddened with fury, he swung violently round and dashed
the great cart-pole with such violence before him, that it brought down
a shower of lime and mortar from the opposite wall, against which it
fell, after causing great havoc on its wayseveral chairs and tables
lay despoiled of arms and legs on the ground, and the two-eared tankard
before Vendel-gazda was shivered into a thousand splinters; while
Hanzli lay below one of the tables contemplating the scene at full
length. What became of the hussar, or how he managed to escape in that
critical moment, Heaven only knows; but when Andras looked about him,
after this feat of annihilating rage, he found the reed still at his
mouth, like a cigar twelve feet long, and the hussar standing opposite
to him as before.
A general burst of laughter responded to Andras's gape of
Well, if ever I saw a match for that since I lived at Kiliti!
exclaimed the perplexed peasant, rubbing his eyes.
But what were mine host Vendel's feelings during all this
excitement? he who loved peace and quiet, to what had he come at last?
Disorder and misrule had taken possession of his house, he heard oaths
which made his hair stand on end, his snuff-box was rifled without
permission, his poodle's tail trod upon, he himself laughed at, and
finally, open war carried on in his presence, and his favourite
tankard, which had been esteemed and honoured, and had grown old in his
house, was destroyed for ever, never to be used again, even beyond the
grave, where he hoped to meet the three wives who had gone before him!
It was more than a Bohemian-German brewer, who wore a night-cap, and
was married for the fourth time, could be expected to bear.
Go to your beds, my good folk! he exclaimed, addressing his
household in piteous accents, and rising solemnly from his seat; let
me get away from hence, Viczikam; let my bed be warmed with hot irons,
for I am ill, very ill, and perhaps I may die. Alas! I am sick, sick!
Vicza, I am dying!
For Heaven's sake, what is the matter? cried his wife in a tone of
great alarm, which was echoed by all the servants, who were of course
much alarmed also.
Bring elder-flowers from the attics, cried Mistress Vicza; get a
linseed poultice directly, boil water for the tea, and warm the pans;
you, Hanzli, run to the barber's for leeches. Beatrice, lay down the
bed immediately, and prepare hot ironsthe gazda is sick, very sick;
his head burns like an oven, and his hand is as cold as a frozen
turnip; make hastefly! two steps for one!
The servants dispersed right and left to their various appointments,
and some, directed by Mistress Vicza, seized Vendel by the arms and
legs, and carried him off, neck and crop, to his bedroom, where they
rolled him up in three feather-beds and half-a-dozen pillows, and made
him drink a quart of camomile and as much elder-tea; while Mistress
Vicza sat beside him with a hand-brush, which she applied unmercifully
if he attempted to move hand or foot from under the feather-beds.
This is the village cure for every complaint. The patient is boiled
in his own soup, and if he does not suffocate, or die of apoplexy, he
is sure to be cured.
Vendel-gazda was at first only shamming ill. He wished to be in
peace and quiet, and he wished to be made much of; but Mistress Vicza
had fairly outwitted him, and he ended by believing what he had himself
invented; he felt that it was either the heat or the cold, but some
sort of fever it certainly was. The hot tea which he had drunk, the
sack of linseed porridge which had been placed on his stomach, the
vesicatorium applied to his soles, the anxious faces about him, the
tiptoe tread, the odour of vinegar poured on heated iron to carry off
infection, the hands laid on his forehead, the whispered opinions, all
gave rise to those peculiar sensations experienced at the beginning of
an illnessa sort of congealment in the head, and a swarming sensation
throughout the whole system.
Vicza! whispered the patient from beneath the feather beds, from
which only his nose was seen rising like a main-mast; Vicza, I am
The czerjo fu will be here directly, my dear old man, and then
you can drink it; meanwhile, you may suck your lips a little.
[Footnote 72: Thousand-sweets, an herb.]
Alas! it was not czerjo-fu tea that Vendel wanted to drink, but he
did not dare to say so.
See, here it is, hot and bitter, for my dear old man! wait, I will
pour some into the saucernow, drink it, and you will be quite well;
but take care not to burn your mouth.
Brrrrrphü! exclaimed the self-made patient, shuddering, as he took
the first mouthful; this must be poison!
Poison indeed! it is excellent physic. I will drink some myself;
there nowdelightful! it will cure you perfectlydrink now, my old
man, drink it, quick! come now, drink it when I tell you.
In short, nolens volens, Vendel was obliged to open his
mouth, and swallow what is erroneously called a thousand sweets, but
is, in truth, a hundred thousand bitters.
It is a well-known fact that strong bitters produce a strong
appetite, and this was the case thirty years ago, just as at present.
Vendel-gazda contented himself for some time by sighing deeply, and
grimacing with his nose, which was the only part of his body in active
condition, till at last, no longer able to control his impatience, he
beckoned to Mistress Vicza, and whispered something in a beseeching
tone, accompanied by a cannibal expression of countenance.
You insatiable cormorant! said Mistress Vicza angrily, what will
you want next? and, drawing the capacious night-cap over his head, she
bade him go to sleep, and left the room.
A deep and heavy sigh burst from poor Vendel's lips.
What the mystic word may or may not have been, has remained a secret
to historians. Psychologians and philosophers, however, who are
initiated in the sacred mysteries of gastronomy, may explain it in the
simple expression, I am hungry.
Mistress Vicza, however, recommended the sufferer to forget his
tortures in sleep.
But Vendel could not sleep. Fearful and strange apparitions rose
before his hungry imagination. Now a gigantic mast of Augsburg sausage
sailed past, followed by an immeasurable side of bacon; now a host of
rosy, smiling Bohemian pampuskas, their preserves squeezing out from
every corner, came flying and leaping around him; anon a respectable
beer-flask floated gravely by, with its venerable crown of white foam,
accompanied by a roasted pig of unusual dimensions; then followed in
diverse rotation, the whole system of bakes, stews, and roasts, and all
sorts of nameable and nameless hashes, minces, and rich soups, emitting
their savoury odours and aromatic flavours.
Oh, hundredfold unhappy man that I am, not to be able to devour all
these! said the hungry brewer to himself, as swallowing his saliva, he
turned to the wall, and tried to say his prayers.
But how could he pray under such circumstances? hungry and thirsty,
with the water actually running from his mouth; besides which, the loud
voices in the next room scolding, laughing, and fighting, were by no
means calculated to inspire devotional feeling.
While he was thus suffering and struggling within himselfnow
whimpering, and now gnawing his coverletall at once, he thought he
felt the pillow begin to move under his head, while certain mysterious
whisperings met his ear; at last, something laid hold of his head.
What is that!
Jahahai! it is me, master, said a voice, accompanied by a
chattering of teeth.
Vendel looked round. Hanzli stood before him, his face of a livid
green, his knees knocking together, and his hair standing on end.
Vendel thought he beheld a spectre. He tried to cry out, but his
tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, and he could not articulate a
Master! exclaimed the youth with upturned eyes; and, trembling
violently, he fell upon both knees, and seized the collar of Vendel's
night-dress so tightly, that the latter thought he was going to choke
him, but he did notno, he did not; on the contrary, Hanzli began to
weep bitterly, and to kiss his master's huge hand, while he could only
exclaim in a voice choked with sobs, Master, master!
I hear, my lad; but what is the matter with you?
Oh, nothing the matter with me; but my master is ruined for ever;
they are going to seize him and carry him off, and make a terrible job
What are you talking of, Hanzli, my lad? exclaimed the amazed
brewer; what do you mean?
Well, do you know, master, what the enemy, this terrible,
vitriol-drinking enemy, has come for?
Nor did I know it before, but now I know it all. Oh! to think that
it was for that they have come across kingdoms and worlds with
fire and sword! to think that they have been searching governments and
realms for that!
Why, did I not say it?
For my wife, perhaps? cried the ex-patient, starting up, hunger
and thirst alike forgotten.
That would have been a good idea! thought Hanzli; they might have
done that, but they did not. It is for you yourself, my beloved
masterfor you alone that all this war is waging, he whispered, with
upraised eyes, pointing with his long ape-like arms to his master, who
had fallen on his back; for though he did not understand the
circumstances of the affair, he was very much alarmed for all that.
He stared at Hanzli, and Hanzli stared at him; both seemed afraid of
renewing the conversation.
But whywhat does the French Emperor want with me? asked Vendel
at last, in a voice faint with suspense and terror.
Ay, replied Hanzli, that is the thing! They have a great project
about you, master. I saw the green csako hussars whispering together,
and shaking their heads. 'That is the man,' I heard them say, 'and no
other;' and I came as near as possible to listen who or what it could
be, and what should I hear
Well, and what did you hear?
They saidwhispering as low as possible, that nobody might hear
themthat the French Emperor would not cease devastating the land with
fire and sword, until they delivered him up as a ransom
Until they gave him, as a ransom, a man weighing five
And what do they want with him? gasped Vendel.
And therefore they are determined to weigh you to-morrow; and if
you strike the weight, they will immediately hand you over to the
Emperor of the French! All this they whispered very low; but I heard
them, master, for all that.
But what does he want with me, Hanzli? do you not know what he
Oh, it will kill you, master, to hear it! Nothing more nor less
Than to preserve you in spirits for his museum!
All ye saints! roared Vendel, leaping up on his bed; preserve me
in spirits of wine like the four-legged hen, or the double-tailed
Just so, master, and alive too!
But it shall not be! roared Vendel. They shall not preserve me in
spirits; I have no desire for such an honournone at all! Come, help
me up. Where are my slippers? Holy prophet Jonas! no wish for it
whatever! Reach me my jacket and my cap. St. Florian and Habakkuk! help
me to dress. My cloak, my cloak, HanzliSt. Cecilia! my cloak! Let us
run, my lad, run
This was the question.
Where? out of the window, of course. Take the hatchet and knock out
the cross beamsthat's it! never mind breaking the glass! Now, raise
me up, Hanzli; let us run!
And the next moment there was a terrible crash outside the window,
occasioned by the descent of Vendel, which luckily the noise of the
revellers within prevented them from hearing.
But where shall we go now?
This was the next question, for Vendel-gazda's legs were not exactly
fashioned to run away with him. What was to be done?
At last Hanzli bethought him of a large wheel-barrow, which lay
under a shed close by; and bringing it out, he placed his master in it,
and wheeled him down a by-road which led behind the village; while the
gigantic effort of this superhuman undertaking bent his back into a C,
and caused his eyes to start almost out of their sockets.
His master tried to encourage him as well as he could: Push on, my
brave boy! I will serve you another timeonly push on!
At last they reached the end of the village. Poor Hanzli still
continued pushing his immense burden before him, panting and snorting,
while his back seemed ready to break at every step, and Vendel still
continued his words of encouragement. That's right I push on, my
boy!we will rest anon.
They reached the maize-ground.
Hanzli was nearly exhausted; and just as he was exerting his last
strength to roll the sisyphian burden over a little moundwhile Vendel
urged him forward as usual, crying, Push on, my lad, push out just a
little more!plump! the barrow turned to one side, and the whole
contents were precipitated into a muddy ditch.
Oh! alas! I am lost! Mercy, Hanzli; save me! cried the prostrate
Hanzli did his best; and after much labour, succeeded in dragging
his master out of the mud.
But now you must get on, master, as you best can, on your own two
legs; for if you expect me to push the barrow any more, I must just
leave you heremy spine is split already; I shall never be fit for
Don't be foolish, my lad; you surely don't mean to forsake me! Help
me at least to hide somewhere. You know very well how I always loved
youlike my own son, Hanzlikam!
Well then, don't be talking about it; but just get up and give me
your arm. Iai! if you are going to lean on me in that manner, master, I
won't go a step farther. Just try to move your own legsso, so.
And by dint of threats and encouragement, Hanzli succeeded in
dragging his unhappy master through the maize till they reached a small
shed, the sides and roof of which were somewhat dilapidated by wind and
rain. Bundles of reeds, plaited together with maize stems, formed the
shed-walls, through which the flowers of the sweet hazel-nut grew up
luxuriantly; within, there was nothing but a legion of gnats.
Am I to remain here? asked Vendel in a voice of despair, surveying
the shed, which was almost filled when he was inside.
Don't be afraid, master! nobody will think of looking for you
But where am I to sit down?
Why, on the ground, master.
St. Jeremias! that is a hard seat.
Never mind, master; it is better than being preserved in spirits of
But it is very cold; and then I am very hungry, too.
Well, we can help that, master. I will go home and bring you a
whole loaf, and some bacon.
Nothing else? You surely do not wish me to starve, Hanzli?
I do not wish that, master; but indeed you must try and get down a
little, at least half a hundredweight, unless you intend to spend your
life here in eternal concealment.
Vendel looked round in dismay. Very well, my son, very wellthat
is, I mean, very bad, very bad; but it can't be helped. Bring my dog,
Hanzli, that I may have something to speak to at least when I am alone,
and to take care of me.
Well, Heaven bless you, master, till I come back again! and don't
Hanzli, don't speak of me to anybody,you know who that
is, Hanzlinot a syllable!
No, no; no, no!
And Vendel was left alone to his own reflections, which were
anything but agreeable. Cold and hungry, turned out of his comfortable
home and warm bed, to pass the night in a damp maize-shedand all for
the caprice of a sovereign who wished to preserve him in spirits!
In about an hour's time, every moment of which seemed an eternity to
our poor fugitive, Hanzli returned laden with various articles. Vendel
descried him at some distance, and rejoiced in seeing him thus bent
beneath his burden, believing he had brought the whole contents of the
larder on his back.
What is that on your back, Hanzli? he called to him as he
A sheaf of straw, and a cloak.
Iai! nothing to eat? And what is that in your arms?
That is the poodle, which I was obliged to carry, for he would not
come with me.
And the bread, and the other things? asked Vendel anxiously.
Here it is, in the bag.
Alas! this bag was a very small concern.
And have you brought nothing to drink, Hanzli?
Yes, master, in this bottle.
That's right! Reach it here; let me draw the cork. Oh! are you a
heathen, Hanzli?there is nothing here but water!
But it is quite fresh.
Do you wish to kill me, Hanzli? Large tears stood in poor Vendel's
Come now, master, don't be grumbling; there is enough to eat and
drink. We will hang up the bag on these cross beams, and I will make
your bed. See now, you may sleep soundly there, and I will come back
again to-morrow. Good night, master; shut the door after me.
And Vendel was again alone. Ay, such is human life! Man can be
secure of nothing in this world; even when he lies down in a
comfortable bed, there is no saying where he may awake in the morning!
Thus philosophized poor Vendel as he lay on his back on the hard
earth. It was now quite dark; one or two inquisitive stars peeped
through the cracks of the shed, but all was silent as death.
Vendel was just beginning to feel drowsy, when all at once he heard
something or somebody speaking close to him in the German
accentindeed the sounds were quite distinct.
Quak, quak, frakk!
Who the tartar can that be?
Quak, quak, frakk!
Perhaps it is Sclavonian they are talking, thought Vendel: Jako
sza volas, moje dusa?
[Footnote 73: What is your name, my dear?]
Quak, quak, frakk! The voice came always nearer; until at last
Vendel summoned resolution to stretch out his hand in the direction of
the sound to feel for its cause.
Something cold moved under his fingersas cold as a frog. What the
tartar could it be? as cold as a frog, speaks German, and moves! Vendel
could not guess; but he once more addressed the mysterious creature,
and then, seizing his cap from off his head, he laid it over it, that
he might not find it staring in his face next morning; after which, he
took the loaf out of the bag, and breaking off the crust, placed it
under his head as a pillow, and slept soundly till daybreak;for
though he was once or twice disturbed by something pulling his hair or
scratching his head, he was too much fatigued to take much notice of
it, and only shook his head and fell asleep again. Towards morning,
however, he began to be troubled by fearful dreams. A vast museum rose
before him, in which were divers stuffed pelicans, ostriches, storks,
crocodiles, sea-horses, peacocks, long-tailed monkeys, and dog-faced
Tartars, embalmed speckled devils, petrified angels, and suchlike
naturæ curiosa, all standing in long rows, among which were one or
two critics, hung by the legs.
But what most attracted his attention, were two gigantic glasses
placed in the middle of the room, both filled with spirits, and bound
round the top with oilskin, in one of which stood a meagre elephant,
swinging his long trunk before him, with frizzed hair, glazed boots, a
wide frock coat, and high collar, from each side of which protruded his
But now for the other glass! There floated Master Vendel himself,
swelled to twice his original size, in his yellow flannel coat and
coloured slippers, and stamping with all his force to break out of his
prison. He tried to cry out, too; but when he opened his mouth, the
spirits went down his throat. At last he made a desperate leap to get
his head through the oilskin, and kicked outthe side of the reed
Ahhaouhh! he cried with a loud yawn, infinitely relieved at
finding himself there, instead of in the French Emperor's museum. It
was a good thing I did not submit to that; a terrible job they
would have made of me, no doubt!
Vendel then sat up, and began to think of breakfasting. He looked
about for the loaf; but no loaf was to be seenonly a few scattered
crumbs marked the place it had once occupied as a pillow.
Well! sighed Vendel, summoning all his philosophy; I must eat the
bacon alone, though I shall probably be ill after it.
But Providence had taken care that Vendel should not be ill through
this means: the ham was nowhere to be foundonly the empty bag lay on
Fearful spectres floated across the waste of Vendel's brain.
Filax! he cried, but the poodle did not answer: there was a mine
scratched out under the reeds, by which he had probably made his
Vendel burst open the door, and the first thing which met his eye
was his faithful dog quietly gnawing the bones of the bacon.
Alas, alas! I am lost! cried Vendel, falling on his back in utter
Fortunately, some secret misgiving induced the faithful Hanzli to
return about noon with a fresh transport of provisions, otherwise the
poor brewer, like King Eu(the tartar knows what comes next!), might
have been tempted to eat himself up.
Hanzli, my son! take away the dog, and bring a cat instead; the
mice have eaten all my bread, and the dog has carried off the bacon.
But what of the hussars, Hanzli?
Oh! they are already beyond the frontiers; they made a great noise
till early in the morning, when they mounted their horses and galloped
off. Since then, they have probably been in battle.
And Mistress Vicza?
They have not carried her off, replied Hanzli with a bitter sigh.
She is going on in a terrible way, looking for you everywhere. She
thinks you are after no good, and promises that you shall smart for it
when you return.
Utcza! I am between two fires! thought poor Vendel. On one side
the French Emperor, on the other my wife: one wants to have me under a
glass, the other under her thumb!
But keep yourself well hid, for the enemy is approaching,
continued Hanzli. All the gentlemen of the town are hiding their
effects under the beams and in the cellars, and their wives are cooking
and baking all sorts of cakes; the very roads are covered with pastry.
They say the enemy fires with red powder, and there is a strong smell
of pepper all about. Heaven preserve us when they come! for they are a
terrible merciless set, it is said, and spare neither man nor child;
and they have such a love for torture, that they will bend two trees
together for their diversion, and tie a man's legs to them, then
suddenly let them go, and whip! he is split in two!
Then they tie the women together by the hair, and drive them off to
the markets in Africa.
I say, Hanzli, how far is it to Africa?
I have not heard that yet, master; but I daresay as far as
[Footnote 74: A little town about twenty miles north of Raab.]
I should like to know, in order that, if they carry off Vicza, I
could reckon in how many days she might return.
But what if they carry me off? and then some dog-faced young lady
in Africa may fall in love with me! sure enough, and then eat me! They
say they fatten a man up with currants and other fruits, and then eat
Alas! my son, Hanzli! if they carry you off and eat you, there will
be nobody to bring me anything to eat! For Heaven's sake, Hanzli, take
care of thyself! And the good man seized Hanzli, and kissed and
embraced him till the lad thought a bear had got him in its clutches,
and was so blinded in consequence of the squeezing, that he stumbled
about afterwards like a shell-fish on shore.
Days passed on. Hanzli continued to bring food to his master morning
and evening, and to enliven his solitude with the numerous reports he
had heard in the village, and which were not unfrequently the cause of
sleepless nights to poor Vendel.
Meanwhile, the maize was growing tall and yellow; the pumpkins were
ripening beneath their great shady leaves, and the starlings visited
the happy fields. Early in the mornings Vendel went up a neighbouring
hillock, from whence he could see the village, and watch the smoke of
the chimneys, and hear the dogs barking from a distance, and the bells
ringing; then, when the sun rose, he would sigh deeply and go back to
his hut, where he lay down till Hanzli returned with food; nor would he
venture out again till the sun sank below the horizon, when he would
creep forth once more, and watch the shepherds' fires on the meadows,
and listen to the herd-bells returning to the village, or the merry
creaking of waggon-wheels over the plains; and then the moon rose, like
a bright silver twentypenceso rare an appearance in those days (not
the moon, but the twentypence), and poor Hornyicsek gazed at St. David
and his harp in the bright planet, and bethought him of the happy times
when he used to watch it from his marble bench, with his head in a
state of brilliant clairvoyance, illuminated by beer. The mild evening
breeze sighed softly through the leaves of the maize, and the crickets
chirped around him. If Vendel had been a poet, he could not have
desired more; but unfortunately, as it was, all this was lost to him,
and he would readily have been excused the enjoyment of such romantic
The good man now discovered that his clothes were growing wider
every day, and that he mounted the hillock with much less difficulty
than formerly. He began to think that he might now with safety return
to the village; but Hanzli dissuaded him, declaring that he was still
much too fat, though he put him on stricter diet every day.
Thus several weeks passed by, which were unmarked by any incident of
great importance in regard to Vendel. True, the ants sometimes took his
residence by storm, causing him considerable inconvenience by day and
night; once a fearful hurricane nearly terrified him to death; and a
mad buffalo kept beating about the maize-ground one afternoon,
bellowing fearfully round the shed, while Vendel did not dare to
breathe or stir. But there was one adventure which very much disturbed
the good man's equanimity; and as it had, besides, some influence on
his future proceedings, we shall relate it more in detail.
We have already mentioned that Vendel was haunted by some uncanny
spirit, which seemed to converse in German, was cold to the touch, and
moved. This visit had been frequently repeated, and Vendel had as often
covered the intruder with his cap; but next morning, when he raised it
carefully, there was nothing to be seen but a hole in the ground, which
was quite dark, and seemed to descend into the depths of the earth.
One evening, as he was musing over the mysteries of this secret
passage, he thought he heard steps outside the shed, accompanied by low
whisperings. Shortly after, a strange phenomenon took place at the
mysterious hole; it seemed as if trying to speakgurgling, hickupping,
and sobbing, exactly like a human throat; he thought he heard it sigh,
too. By degrees it grew louder and louder; a gulping sound followed,
then a terrible scratching was heard, nearer and nearer, and louder!
Vendel trembled like an aspen leaf. At lasthah!at last, a fearful
head appeared,two eyes, two ears, sharp teeth, a red tongue! higher
and higher it came, struggling out of the hole. One struggle more, and
a terrible, wild-looking, dirty creature, with sharp nails and shining
eyes, rushed forth!
It was a water-rat!
Saint Bartholomew, help! cried the brewer; it will eat me!
And as the creature issued from the hole, a deluge rose after it,
squirting and bubbling; and in an instant the rat, Vendel, and his
residence were completely inundated.
The mystery may be thus explained. Some mischievous shepherd boys
had come to fill up the hole with water, and having found the entrance
on that side of the mound on which the forsaken shed stood, they had
brought water from a neighbouring pond in buckets, which they poured
down the hole; and, ignorant of its telegraphic theory, they cursed the
frogs for drinking all their water, while Vendel's residence was
undergoing an inundation at the other outlet of the rat's hole.
Meanwhile, the persecuted monster ran round the small shed, and not
finding any mode of exit, climbed up the reeds on all-fours, and had
just reached a hole which the wind had broken in the roof, when by some
unlucky chance it slipped back and fellright on Vendel's nose!
Our readers may imagine the cry which burst from the lips of the
terrified man at this catastrophe: he kicked open the door with hands
and feet, and rolled out, making as great a tumult as if three
regiments of Turks had been behind him.
But the shepherd boys by no means took the matter in jest. Every one
for himself, they scampered off with terror-stricken countenances,
leaving buckets, tubs, and water-rat, and never paused till they
reached the village, where they immediately alarmed the inhabitants.
When Vendel had recovered from his panic, he began to reflect on the
probable consequences of this imprudent sally: he should now be
discovered, betrayed, and put in spirits. And this was the fate that
The unfortunate man crept up his hill of observation, and strained
his eyes towards the village. In a very short time his worst fears
began to be realized: a party of men, armed with pitchforks and
scythes, were evidently making for his place of concealment. To have
remained there longer would have been tempting Providence; and so the
poor man took up his mantle with great resignation, and sighing deeply,
wandered out into the fields of buck-wheat, where he lay down and
listened anxiously to the distant uproar with which the excited
villagers hunted the fearful spectre; and to this day the true legend
of the earth-man is told in the district.
When all was quiet, Vendel rose and withdrew farther from the
dangerous vicinity of his hut. For three whole days he wandered through
thorns and bushes, sleeping in the open air, and supporting life with
earth-nuts and maize. Three miserable fast days they were, which
deprived him of at least twenty pounds of bodily weight, but certainly
prolonged his life by three years! On the fourth day he heard a great
deal of firing at about a mile's distance, and at intervals the sound
of great guns. He even saw some of the balls lazily rebounding from the
ground at the end of their flight, and, picking up one, he put it into
his pocket in testimony of the battle he had seen, and of all he had
gone through during the war.
Towards noon, the firing ceased, and in the evening, as Vendel was
preparing to lie down under the shelter of a ridge of potatoes, a form
started from the treacherous wood beside him in pelisse and dolmany,
with a red csako, short boots, and a musket in his hand. He looked
about himperhaps he was pursued, perhaps pursuinghe seemed
evidently in a dilemma of some kind; as he approached, however, Vendel
recognised Matyas Kormas, one of the noble proprietors of the
districtbut in what a plight! He who had gone out with such zeal,
torn and covered with mud; his hair and moustache, wont to be so
stiffly waxed, hanging dolefully about his face, and his countenance
expressive of anxiety and alarm. Vendel was much relieved, however, to
see that there were no marks of blood about him; but his ardour seemed
considerably abated, and he by no means now looked as if he could
devour his enemies.
Good evening, Vendel! he exclaimed in a mild tone, on recognising
the brewer; can you tell me in what direction the village lies?
Vendel immediately offered to conduct him, thinking he might have a
better chance of safety by returning with an armed man, the whole
country being now unsafe.
I only wanted to know in order that I might keep away from it,
replied Matyas, for the enemy occupy it at present; but let us get
down into the underwood, Vendel; we can hide there together.
Then are they really such ferocious people? asked Vendel
Hiai! my friend, you had better ask no questionsyou never saw
such things! if we had not retreated, there would not have been a man
of us left! they have a peculiar way of holding their muskets, and
never miss a shot!
Why did you not hold yours the same way? asked Vendel simply.
Why, you see, Providence was against us; there is no firing against
that! Come, let us make a hole somewhere, and hide these arms; for if
they find out that I have come from the camp, I shall be taken
prisoner, and brought back again.
The two patriots hastened to gain that underground which stretches
from Csto the Danube, in which they concealed themselves for a
whole day and a half, enduring all the glories and privations of war,
and encouraging one another through all their difficulties and dangers.
On the evening of the second day, however, our heroes were as hungry as
wolves, and had began to turn their thoughts to the procuring food.
Slowly and stealthily they left the wood, and, not far from the
outskirts, they descried a waggon lying overturned in one of the cross
Matyas, seeing that nobody was near it, broke a willow sapling from
the roadside, and, desiring Vendel to lie down on the ground and shut
his eyes, he rushed towards the deserted waggon, and attacked it with
Defend yourselves!surrender! Who dares resist? he cried, beating
the waggon with his wand; while Vendel, who lay with his face buried in
the grass, firmly believed that his friend had put to flight at least
three hundred Frenchmen! The day is ours! exclaimed Matyas at last,
returning flushed and triumphant from the strife; let us seize the
If Vendel had hitherto any doubts as to the enemy's capacity for
digesting iron, they were entirely removed on his trying to bite the
bread taken from the waggon. They were obliged to steep it for two days
in the Danube; but they ate it for all that, and Vendel thought he had
never eaten anything with so good an appetite before.
At last, Heaven delivered our country from its scourge. When
Napoleon had seen the Miskolcz bread, the Debreczen honeycakes, the
Vasvar csakany, the Kecskemet kulacs, the Ugocsa horned-owls,
and the Comorn figswithout having obtained the chief object of his
enterprise in the person of Vendel-gazdahe returned home again with
his army; or, in other words, we drove them out of the countrywhich
is sacred truth, although envious historians wish to conceal it.
[Footnote 75: A wind instrument.]
[Footnote 76: A sort of wooden flask.]
When these glad tidings spread through the land, the woods and maize
fields began to be depopulated; and every one returned to his ancestral
abode, to relate his warlike adventures to his anxious family, who
listened with breathless interest as he described how he had defended
himself against at least thirty of the enemy, and carried off their
ammunition waggons; how a ball had been fired into his breast, while he
was only saved by a large silver button, and the letters of nobility
which he always carried about him; and finally, how his musket,
igniting in the heat of the battle, had burst into a thousand pieces!
These, and still more marvellous adventures, our jovial ancestors
recited after the war. Heaven bless them! if they had allowed
themselves to be shot, where should we have been now? and without
Among the rest, Matyas-ur and Vendel-gazda left their place of
concealment, and returned to the village; and indeed it was high time,
for they were both terribly pulled down, especially the brewer, who was
a mere shadow of his former self, and only resembled that respectable
personage as a dried pear does a green one. Moreover, such was the
tattered and dirty condition to which their wandering life had reduced
them, that they might have exhibited themselves with perfect confidence
at twentypence per head, sub tituloFinns!
The danger once over, it was an easy matter for Matyas-ur. He had
only to go home to be recognised and welcomed at once; but with Vendel
the case was otherwise. As he reached his home, the sound of music and
dancing struck painfully on his ear. Hm! he thought, they do not
seem to be mourning much for me! He listened again, and heard the
noise of gay laughter and loud talking. At last he opened the door. The
large guest-room was full of gaily-dressed people, who were crowded in
every corner; while the space in the middle was occupied by the
dancers. With some difficulty, Vendel squeezed through the crowd, and
there, in the midst of all, was his beloved wife, with her cap on one
side, dancing with Andras-gazda, whose skin shone twice as much as it
was wont. Hanzli's subdued-looking face also appeared among the crowd;
but the youth was evidently out of spirits, and sat moody and silent
amidst the gay revellers. Meanwhile the beer and wine flowed copiously,
and the beneficent odour of all species of eatables tantalized the nose
of the hungry wanderer.
Oh! unhappy man! cried Vendel, clapping his hands together; that
was all he saidbut how much was expressed in the words!for a few
moments he gazed round him in silence. Stop! he roared at last,
stamping on the ground; on which his little dog came out from below the
table, and began barking at his sorely-tried master. His own poodle
barked at him! Who is this man? exclaimed several of the guests.
Where do you come from, countryman? asked Andras-gazda. Give the
poor wretch a glass of wine; he must be some beggar! said Mistress
Vicza, adjusting her cap.
This was more than the exemplary patience of the Bohemian could
bear. Hear, all of you! he roared; I am myself, and nobody else!
One and all shook their heads. The voice was Vendel's, but the face,
the figure, none recognised.
Not even you, Hanzli? cried Vendel in despair; not even you
Hanzli looked at him gravely, then grinned, then again stared
vacantly, without the slightest recognition.
Ah, this is indeed desperate! groaned the unfortunate man, as,
seizing one of the four-quart bottles of beer which stood on the table,
he emptied it at one draught; and this was his redemption. By this
means he was recognised at once; and Vendel-batya! Vendel-gazda!
Nagyuram! Kisuram! Edes uram! resounded on every side; while
they all fell upon him, embraced, kissed him, and led him out to dance.
He was very well received indeed, and a little explanation set
everything to rights.
[Footnote 77: Great master, Little master, Dear master; these being
titles carefully distinguished from each other by the peasants.]
The cause of the feasting and merriment was Andras's wedding with
Panna, the little girl for whom he had fought with the hussar; which
solemnity was celebrated jointly with the retreat of the French; and
now that there was Vendel-gazda's miraculous return to rejoice at
besides, the festivities were kept up till late next morning.
Thus ended the trials and adventures of the brewer of B; and
from this day forward, Heaven showered her blessings upon him; sons and
daughters grew up around him, some fair, and some dark, but all fat,
and each one finer and prettier than the other.
THE SZEKELY MOTHER.
[Footnote 78: Szekely (Szekler in German), the inhabitants of the
border districts in Transylvania, said to be one of the most ancient
tribes of the Magyar race, who came over still earlier than Attila.]
The cannons were silent, the battle was overthe brave had fallen.
The field, which so lately had been the scene of wild and desperate
contention, was now silent as the grave; only the thunder of heaven and
the moaning of the breeze were to be heard, while the lurid lightning
gleamed across the plain, as if the spirits of the dead had begun a new
and inexorable strife on high, to guard the gates of heaven, as, an
hour before, they had defended the frontiers of their country against
In the churchyard, before the gates of Kezdi-Vasarhely, the Szekely
women anxiously awaited, not the return of the beloved, but the news of
They sat in groups on the gravestones and green mounds, listening
all day to the cannon, and trying to distinguish the distant sounds.
That is oursthat is Gabor Aronand that the enemyand now
the thunder of heaven.
[Footnote 79: A common rustic, who, at the beginning of the late
war, astonished his countrymen by his skill in founding cannons, and in
the art of gunnery.]
And, when the cannon had ceased, they waited with beating hearts to
hear of defeat or victory.
And allmothers, young girls, brides, wives, breathed the same
fervent wishthat if the beloved should return, it might be with
glory; but that if the day were lost which was to decide the fate of
their country, none might return to tell it!
On the threshold of the chapel, by the crypt-door, sat an old man:
he was past eightyhis eyes were dim and lustreless, and his voice
faint and trembling: he, too, had come out to the churchyard to wait
the issue of the battle, for he could not rest at home; beside him sat
a cripple, who had one leg shrunk up, but although the body was weak
and sickly, every thought of his heart was in the battle-field, and he
frequently exclaimed, in bitterness of spirit, Why cannot I too be
The cripple knelt beside the old man, and read to him out of the
Bible. The passage was in Samuel, about the battles of Israelthe holy
war, in which thirty thousand had fallen guarding the ark of God.
Why cannot I be there? sighed the unhappy youth, and read:
'And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and
Phinehas, were slain.
'And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to
Shiloh the same day, with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his
'And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching:
for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into
the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
'And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth
the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
'Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim,
that he could not see.'
The cripple could read no more; he looked at the old man, his heart
sickened, and his eyes filled with tears.
Why do you not continue? asked the old man.
It is dark; I cannot see the words.
That is false; I feel the last rays of the sun on my face; why do
you not read on?
The cripple wiped the tears from his eyes, and again began to
'And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and
I fled to-day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
'And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the
Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the
people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the
ark of God is taken.'
But here he could no longer contain himself, and, sobbing bitterly,
he leant his head on the old man's knee, and hid his face in his hands.
The latter did not insist on his reading any more; but repeated, in
a low voice, the well-known verse:
'And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that
he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his
neck brake, and he died.'
* * * * *
Beneath an acacia tree, at a little distance from the rest, stood
The eldest might have been six-and-thirty; her features, though
stern and severe, were still beautiful, and her dark lustrous eyes
glowed with the fire of enthusiasm. She was very pale, and the
lightning which glimmered around her gave a still more livid hue to her
Judithfor so she was calledwas a true type of the Szekely women;
one of those unfading forms who retain to an advanced age the keen
expression of countenance, the brilliancy of the large dark eye, the
thrilling and musical tones, and slender but vigorous form; while the
mind, instead of decaying, grows stronger with years.
Round her majestic figure, a slight girl of sixteen twined her arms,
clinging to her like the gentle convolvulus to the stately pine.
Aranka was a lovely blue-eyed maiden, with bright golden locks, and
a form so fragile, that it seemed to bend like the lily to the breeze.
She was betrothed to the son of that proud matron to whom she clung,
and the eyes of the mother and the bride sought the beloved, as they
gazed eagerly through the dim apace.
Do you not see a form approaching there? asked Judith, pointing
towards the plain.
Aranka drew still closer, that she might see the object pointed out;
her head rested on Judith's shoulder, but she could not discern
anything, for the starry beam of the blue eye cannot pierce the
distance, like the more fiery ray of the black eye.
In a few minutes the form became more distinct, and the timid blush
of love flitted over the young girl's cheek, while a deep flush of
anger mantled on the mother's.
It is he, my beloved! murmured Aranka, pressing her small hand on
her heart, as if to still the little flutterer.
He has no arms! cried Judith with horror, as she turned away her
head, and covered her eyes with her hand; for, though still indistinct
to others, the gentle girl recognised her lover, and the mother had
seen her son's disgrace.
With slow and uncertain steps the figure approached; his head hung
dejectedly on his breast, and he appeared to move with pain.
On seeing the women assembled in the churchyard, he bent his steps
They all now recognised Judith's son, and surrounded the mother as
The churchyard moat lay between the mother and her son. Unable to
cross it, the young man sank on the ground before it. His clothes were
torn and covered with blood, and his hand endeavoured to conceal a
wound in his breast.
Where have you left your arms? cried his mother in a stern voice,
advancing from among the crowd.
He would have replied, that he had left it in his enemy's heart; but
he had not strength to speak, and the words died on his mouth.
Speak! is the battle lost?
The youth made a sign of the affirmative.
And why did you not fall with the rest? Why did you leave the field
for the sun to rise on your disgrace? Why have you come hither?
The youth was silent.
Wherefore should you desire to outlive your country? And, if you
have come to be buried here, better far to have sought a grave where it
had been glory to have diedon the battle-field. Away! This churchyard
has no place for youyou can have no part among our deadleave us,
and deny that you were born here! Live or die, but forget us.
The youth looked in his mother's face with an imploring expression,
and then at the women who surrounded her; but he encountered no
glanceno trace of sympathyhis eyes sought his bride, his heart's
brightest hopes, the blue-eyed maiden; but she had fallen on her knees
at his mother's feet, hiding her face in Judith's dress, to conceal her
The youth still hesitatedstill waited to see if any one would bid
him stay; and when he saw that none spoke, not even his bride, he
raised himself slowly and silently from the earth, still holding his
hand across his breast, and, with tottering steps, turned once more to
the trackless plain, and wandered into the woods beyond, where he sank
never to rise again.
One or two of the Szekely youths returned afterwards from the lost
field, but the women refused them admittance.
Seek another home, they said, than the one you could not defend!
And the few who survived wandered into distant countries, for none
dared return who had outlived his country's ruin.
* * * * *
Bitter were the sounds of weeping and lamentation in the churchyard
of Kezdi-Vasarhelythe cry of the Szekely women rose to heaven.
The old man at the crypt-door asked, in a feeble voice, the cause of
Szekely-land is lost! they cried; your son and your grandsons
have fallen on the field with their leader, and Gabor Aron; and all
their cannon is taken!
The old man raised his hands and sightless eyes to heaven. My God!
he exclaimed, and, sinking to the earth, he ceased to be blind; for the
light of eternity had risen on his spirit.
The old man was dead.
The Szekely women surrounded the body with deep reverence, and bore
it in their arms into the town.
The cripple followed slowly on his crutches, repeating bitterly to
himself, Why could not I have been there too? why could not I have
fallen among them?
In all Kezdi-Vasarhely there was not a man to be seen; the brave had
fallen, the deserters had been turned away, and the last man they were
now placing in his coffin, and he was an old man past eighty, and
Only women and children now remainedwidows and orphanswho wept
bitterly round the old man's bier, but not for the dead.
The cripple knelt unheeded at the foot of the coffin; and hid his
face in his hands, as he heard them say that the last man was
dead; they did not consider him as one!
The house was quite full, as well as the courtfor the old man's
grandchildren and great-grandchildren formed a large congregation; and
all those to whom he had done good during his life, whom he had
assisted with his counsel or supported in their sorrowhow many there
were! and yet the greater part was absent, covering the
battle-field!and among all his sons and grandsons, only that one
cripple was present, and he was not considered as a man!
They had all their dead to mournall their peculiar sorrows, but
none more than the high-minded Judith, and the poor cripple,and yet
they alone wept not. A restless fever burned within them, and, instead
of tears, sparks of fire seemed to burst from their eyes.
In the midst of the weeping and lamentation, Judith beckoned the
David! she exclaimed, taking the youth's damp, cold hand, your
grandfather lies stretched out before you, and yet you stand beside the
coffin without shedding a tear! what are you thinking of? Last night I
heard you sighing and tossing on your bedyou never sleptwhat were
you thinking of then, David?
The cripple hung his head in silence.
David, if you were a strong, sound manif you could hold a sword
or a lance, instead of those crutcheswould you hang your head in
silence as you do now?
The cripple raised his glowing face, and his large, dark eyes met
Judith's with such a gleam of enthusiasm, it seemed as if the ardent
spirit had forgotten for a moment the weakness of its mortal dwelling.
And you will never be happy, she continued; no joys await your
lot in this life, and yet who knows how long that life may be. Speak!
should death appear before you in its most brilliant formmore
glorious than on the battle-fieldand bid you cast away your crutches
and embrace the weapons of destruction, giving you all you loved on
earth as a funeral pile to perish around you, that none should remain
to whom your thoughts might return from the other world
I do not understand you.
You will not, perhaps. The world is still fair to you, even
amidst ruins, and blasted by dishonour; unfortunate as you are, life is
still deareven your crutches are not to be exchanged for wings!
Oh! speak not thus; how often would I have given the life I abhor
for the death I envy! exclaimed the unhappy youth; and added, in a
lower tone, for the death of glory!
And what death would be more glorious than yours? on a battle-field
in which the elements themselves should join, where you would stand in
the midst, high above all, like the angel of death, proclaiming
resistance to the last, in a voice which would be heard above the
battle-cry; and, when all had fallen, when there remained none to help,
you alone would snatch the victory from the enemy's hand, and bear it
with younot to the grave, but to heaven!
O that I could! sighed the cripple; but what is my voice? it
would not be heard in battle; and my arm could snatch the victory from
Listen to me! The victors will arrive to-day or to-morrow; but
neither repose nor enjoyment shall await them herethey shall find
every door closed, and our weapons shall be the reply to theirs. If the
men of Kezdi-Vasarhely have fallen in defence of their country, the
women shall not be unworthy of them! We shall losefor the arm of
woman is weak, though her heart is strongwe have neither the weapons
nor the force to resist, only the will; and therefore our aim is not
victory, but an honourable death. You will go up to the tower, and when
you see the enemy approaching at a distance, ring the bell; we will
then carry out the dead to be buried, and await the hated foe beside
his grave; and wo to them if they try to enter by force, we shall
defend every house to the lastdespair will teach us to fight; and
should fear or hesitation overcome our weak hearts for an instant, the
voice of your bell will revive our courage, and inspire us with new
strength. And you must not cease one moment till the combat is over;
then take the wreaths of tarred pine, which you will find in a niche of
the tower ready prepared, and when the enemy have taken possession of
the town, throw them down on the roofs of the houses! Thus you will
regain the town from the enemy, and, amidst smoke and flamesthe
funeral-pile of all you love on earthyou will bear victory along with
you to heaven!
The cripple listened with increasing agitation to Judith's words;
and when she had finished, he dashed away his crutches, and, falling at
her feet, embraced her knees, and murmured some unintelligible words;
but the enthusiasm which glowed in every feature told how the spirit
rejoiced to meet the death she had portrayed in such brilliant colours.
Will you have courage? asked Judith.
Oh! I shall rejoice in it! I shall no longer be a crippleno
longer unhappy; I shall die like a hero! and when the flames are
bursting around me, I shall sing with the prophet, 'Cry out, ye gates,
cry out, O city, for the terrible day of the Lord is come!'
And the cripple trembled violently with agitation, and his withered
arm was raised to heaven.
Judith gazed at him in silence, as he still knelt, with his hands
and eyes upraised, as if inspired.
Come with me! she exclaimed, after a few moments' pause, raising
him from the ground.
David took up his crutches and followed her, with such joyful
alacrity that his feet scarcely seemed to touch the earth; he appeared
already to possess wings instead of crutches.
As they passed the chamber of the dead, he approached his
grandfather's coffin, and, kissing the cold face and hands, murmured,
with an expression of unwonted joy, We shall meet soon!
The women looked at him with surprise; they had never seen him smile
thus before, and thought that grief had estranged his mind. Judith left
the room, telling them she would soon return, and herself conducted the
cripple to the tower, while he followed with a vigour he had hitherto
never displayed;the spirit seemed actually bearing up the fragile
When they reached the top, Judith kissed the cripple's brow, and
pressed his hand in silence.
David locked the door after her, and threw the key out of the window
along with his crutches.
I shall want them no more, he cried, as Judith passed below the
tower. I wish to be certain that I shall not fail in the hour of
He then placed himself at the window, and looked out towards the
* * * * *
Judith returned to the house of mourning, and found the women still
weeping round the bier.
She motioned to them to dry their tearsher majestic form, calm
features, and commanding eye, seemed formed to be obeyed. The women
were silent, and Judith addressed them in a clear, steady voice:
Sisters!widows and orphans of Kezdi-Vasarhely!Heaven has
visited us with great and severe trials; we have outlived all that was
goodall that we loved on earth; there is not a house in which some
beloved one was not expected who will never now return! However long we
may live, no happiness awaits us in this world! we may grow old and
gray in our deserted homes, but the best part of our lives lies beneath
the sod; and this is not the heaviest stroke which awaits us. Instead
of the beloved, those who have shed their heart's-blood will comewe
shall see them take possession of the places which our beloved ones
have left; instead of the familiar voices, we shall hear the harsh
tones, and meet the unfeeling gaze of strangersof our bitter enemies!
Shall we await that time? Death gives back all that life has taken
awayand death can take nothing but life! If I did not know that I am
among Szekely women, I would take leave of you, and say, I go alone to
die! but I know you allwhere I am you will be also; you will act as I
do, and be worthy of your dead. Go home to your houses, conceal
everything you value; make fires in every stove, and boil water and oil
in every vessel. At the first sound of the bell, let every one of you
assemble here; we will then carry out the dead to the gate of the town,
and dig his grave across the road before it, and with this moat the
town shall be closednone shall pass from within alive! Haste! put
your houses in order, and return here at the first sound of the bell!
The women dispersedwith the calmness of despair they went home,
and did as Judith desired, and collected all the weapons they could
find, but not another tear was shed.
* * * * *
The bell of the tower had begun to toll; it was the only bell left
in Kezdi-Vasarhely; the rest had all been founded into cannon. Clouds
of dust were seen to rise far off on the winding mountain-path, above
Predialo, and the tolling of the bell announced the approach of the
Russian troops. Two companies marched towards the gates of
Kezdi-Vasarhely; one from without, the other from within the town. One
was formed of hardened soldiers, the other of women and girls. On one
side the enlivening sound of military music was heard, and colours
floated on the breeze; on the other, the dismal tones of the funeral
song arose, and mourning veils fluttered round the bier.
A troop of Circassian horsemen paused before the gates. Their dress,
their features, their languageall seemed to recall a strange image of
the past, of those ancient times when first the Magyar people sought a
home in the unknown worldfor even then, persecuted by fate, they
wandered forth in millions, driven from their own country; and some
found a home among the wild mountains of the Caucasus, others wandered
still farther, and the parted brethren never met, or heard of each
other more, till, mingled with the surrounding nations, both had
changed; and when, a thousand years later, the world's caprice once
more brought them together, and they met as foes, both were struck by
some strange sympathy, some sad chord which touched each alike, and
their hearts felt oppressed, and their arms sank, they knew not
The leader of the troop was a young chief, whose oval face, handsome
sunburnt features, and dark eyes, bore great resemblance to the Szekely
Magyar, and if he had worn a dolmany, none would have distinguished the
one from the other; but his dress was not that of the present Magyar,
and yet the crimson-bordered toque, the short linen vest, beneath which
flowed the long coloured kaftan, the curved swordeven the manner of
girding it onall recalled some well-known object, like a portrait
once seen, the name of which we have forgotten, or the impression
caused by some dream, or bygone scene of childhood, and we sigh to be
unable to speak to them, or understand their language, to ask if they
are happier among their mountains than their brothers on the plain, or
if they, too, weep like us; and bid them, when they return, and sit in
the evenings at the threshold of their mountain homesthose which they
so bravely defended, speak of us to their children, and point to where
the setting sun gilds the home of the Magyar, and breathe a prayer for
their suffering brethren.
The grave was dug, and the women stood before it chanting their
mournful dirges, while the measure was now and then interrupted by
sobs, and the solemn bell tolled the knell of deaththe death of the
The leader of the troop alighted from his horse, his comrades
followed his example, and taking their csalmas from their heads, they
clasped their hands and stood beside the grave in silent prayer. Who
would have thought that these were enemies?
After a pause of a few minutes, the leader made a motion to approach
the women on the opposite side of the grave, but Judith calmly
advanced, and waved him back. Approach not, she exclaimedthe grave
is the boundary between us; there is nothing to seek in the townnone
but women and children inhabit itthe widows and orphans of those you
have killed; and here, in this grave, lies the last man of
Kezdi-Vasarhely, a holy man, whom God permitted to live eighty-nine
years, to be the friend and counsellor of the whole town, and has now
called to Himself, because the town has no more need of him: his spirit
fled at the first news of the lost battle, for he was blind ten years:
had he not been blind, the steel and not the news of the battle would
have killed him, as it killed the rest. The women of Kezdi-Vasarhely
have buried him here, that none may enter the town. They wish to live
in solitude, as becomes widows whose husbands have fallen in battle;
and therefore, blessed be the grave which shuts us out from the world,
and accursed be he who steps over it, both before and after his death!
The Circassian drew a white handkerchief from his bosom, and placing
it on the end of his spear, spoke to the Szekely women in a language
unknown to them, although the tone, and even the accent, seemed
familiar. He wished to tell them that he had brought peace to their
town; that they had nothing to fear from him; that he only desired
admittance. The women understood his intention, but motioned a refusal.
In vain you bring peace! they exclaimed; as long as there is a
living breath here, there must be war between us and you; only death
can bring us peace. Seek quarters for your troops elsewhere; the world
is large enoughthere is no rest for you here; grief reigns alone in
this town, where the ghosts of the grave wander through the streets,
women bewailing the dead, and driven by despair to madnessdepart from
The action of the women, the unknown yet familiar tones, awakened a
strange sad echo in the heart of the young Circassian, as he stood
supported on his lance, looking on the mourners before him.
Brought up in the stern exercise of military duty, he was accustomed
to fulfil the word of command, without regard to circumstances; but now
his strength seemed to fail him, and he hesitated to force his way
through a party of weak women.
Take the white handkerchief from your lance, cried Judith, and
steep it in our heart's bloodthen you may enter our town; and as he
leapt into the saddle, several of the women threw themselves before his
horse's feet, causing the animal to rear and neigh.
But the Circassian remembered that he had a beloved mother at home
whose words so much resembled those of that proud matronand sisters,
and a young bride, beautiful as those young girls who had thrown
themselves before his horse's feetwith just such dark glorious eyes,
sad features, and light forms; and his heart failed him. He turned
quickly aside, that the women might not see the tears which filled his
eyes; and then, dashing his spurs into his horse's side, he once more
waved his white handkerchief to the kneeling women, and galloped from
the gate. His comrades hastened after him; their lances gleamed through
clouds of dust, which soon concealed them from view; but neither the
Szekely nor the Circassian women saw that young chieftain more.
He was summoned before a military tribunal for transgression of
duty, and suffered the stern fate of the soldier.
Troops of a different nature were sent next against the town, whose
horses trampled down the grave, and whose bayonets forced open the
It was a weary strife, without the glory of war; one by one each
house was taken, defended as they were by women and children; the
contest was renewed in every street; the infuriated inhabitants pouring
boiling water and oil over the heads of their enemies, while the
fearful tolling of the bell, heard above the cries and the clang of
arms, excited them to still greater desperation.
The combat continued till night, when the song of triumph was heard
in the streetsthe town was in the hands of the enemy. Suddenly, as if
it had descended from heaven, fire burst from the roofs of the houses,
and in an instant, the wind coming to the assistance of the flames,
carried the fiery embers from one end of the town to the other. Cries
of despair arose amidst the howling of the blast, but dense clouds of
smoke concealed all but the flames which darted through them, devouring
as they passed; and high above, the roof of the tower blazed like a
gigantic torch, while the solemn tolling still continued, the voice of
battle, of fire, of tempest, and of death: a fearful crash was heard,
and all was stillthe bell had fallen.
* * * * *
The two elements remained joint masters of the field. The wind and
the flames contended over the ruins of Kezdi-Vasarhely.
DEAREST ILMA,I am in despair! I am very ill, and in bed! Ah! I
shall never dance a quadrille again. I will go into a convent, or
marry, or make away with myself in some other way. Conceive what has
happened to me! Oh! it is too dreadful, too shocking! you never read
such a thing in a romance!
You may have heard that the Hungarian troops marched through here
last week, after the battle of Branyisko; there was the greatest panic
and confusion at the news of their approach; we expected that they
would have set fire to the town, and pillaged, and killed usindeed,
mamma said there was no knowing what horrors they might commit, and she
desired me to scratch my face with my nails, and disfigure myself, in
case they should wish to carry me off! Did you ever hear such an idea?
Well! ere long the national guards marched in with their bands
playing. Papa went to meet them with a deputation. Our servants all ran
out to see the soldiers, and I could not find mamma anywhere; the day
before, she had never ceased searching for a place to conceal herself
innever answering me when I called and looked for her; and if by
chance I found her in a wardrobe, or in the clock, she scolded me
severely for discovering her hiding-place.
As I was left quite alone, I thought the best thing I could do was
to lay out the table with every sort of eatable and wine I could find;
that at least these national guards should not eat me, but find
something else prepared for them; and I determined in my own mind to
give them quietly every thing they asked for, and let them see I did
not fear them in the least; and then I waited with the utmost
resignation to hear cries for help through the streets.
At last the sound of spurred footsteps and clinking swords echoed
along the corridor, but no noise or swearing; au contraire, a
very polite double knock at the door. In my terror or flurry, however,
I had no power to say, Come in. But do not imagine they broke in the
door with their musketsnot at all, they only repeated the knock, and
waited till I gave permission, in a trembling voiceexpecting at least
six dog-faced Tartars to enter, with square heads and skin capsbeards
down to their girdles, and dressed in bears' hides, with leather sacks
over their shoulders, to thrust their plunder into; and covered all
over with pistols and knives, as I have heard mamma describe them; but
conceive my surprise, when, instead of all this, two young officers
walked in; one fair, and the other dark, but very well dressed, and
just like other people.
They wore small fur cloaks across their shoulders, and under this, a
tight-fitting attilano idea of skins or square heads; indeed, the
dark one was quite a handsome youth.
Their first action was to beg pardon for any inconvenience they
might cause; to which I replied, that I considered it no inconvenience
whatever, and was ready to serve them in any way they wanted.
The dark youth, glancing at the table, could scarcely refrain from a
smile, which embarrassed me extremely, as I thought he must have
supposed I had prepared all this on purpose for him. At last the other
relieved my embarrassment, by thanking me politely for all my proffered
services, and only begged I would show them an apartment where they
could take some rest, as they were very tired, not having slept in a
bed for six weeks, or lain down at all for two days.
Poor creatures! I quite pitied themnot to have slept in a bed for
Indeed! I exclaimed, it must have been very uncomfortable to have
been obliged to sleep on a divan, or even in a camp-bed, for six entire
They both laughed. On the bare groundon the snowunder the clear
sky, they replied.
Oh, heavens! even our servants would have died, had they been
obliged to pass one winter's night out of doors.
I begged them to follow me, and showed them our best room, in which
there were two beds. As the servants were all out, I was going to make
down the bed myself.
Oh, we cannot allow that! they both exclaimed, we can do that
ourselves; and seeing they had need of rest, I bowed, and hastened to
leave them alone.
Scarcely had I reached my own room, when I heard a terrible shriek,
which seemed to proceed from the apartment I had just left, and cries
of Help! robbers! murder!
I knew the voice, but in my terror I could not remember who it was,
and still the cries continued, Help! murder!
If you can imagine my situation, you may suppose that I never moved
from the spot on which I stood, till the voice, echoing through the
rooms, at last approached my apartment.
It was my dear mamma!but in what a plight!
Her clothes all crumpled, her cap over her eyes, one of her shoes
off, and her whole face as red as if she had come out of an oven. It
was a long time before I could make out where she had been, or what had
happened to her. Well! only fancy. She had hid in the very room where I
had quartered my two guests, and where, do you think?in one of the
beds, under all the feather quilts! Now you may imagine the rest, and
the surprise of the national guard officer when he threw himself down
half dead with fatigue. Poor mamma had good reason to cry out; but what
an idea, to hide there!
After much trouble, I calmed her a little, and endeavoured to
persuade her that these national guards had not come to rob or kill us;
and, finally, I succeeded so far, that she promised not to hide again,
and I undertook to explain to the officers, that mamma had the
rheumatism, and was obliged to get under all these feather beds, by way
of a vapour bath!
Meanwhile our guests had scarcely time to fall asleep, when an
orderly arrived, who desired to speak with them.
You cannot see them at present, I repliedthey are both asleep;
but you may wait, or come again.
Where are they sleeping? he asked.
I showed him the room, and without the slightest consideration, as
to whether it was proper to awake them, after being two whole days
without rest, he walked coolly into the room.
I expected they would have immediately cut the man in pieces for
disturbing them, instead of which, in a few minutes, they both
appeared, completely dressed, and followed the orderly, without the
slightest sign of displeasure. The major had sent for them.
How strange this military life must be, how people can submit
without the least resistance! I should be a very bad soldier indeed,
for I always like to know beforehand why I am ordered to do a thing.
In about half an hour the officers returnedno ill-humour or
sleepiness was visible; they did not even return to their rooms; but
asked for mamma and me, and announced to us in very flattering terms,
that the officers' corps had improviséd a ball for that night,
to which we were invited, and then they immediately begged to engage me
for a française, a csardas, and a polonaise (there was to be no
waltzing), and I naturally promised everything.
It was our first ball since the Carnival, and they seemed to enjoy
the thoughts of it as much as I did, for they would not hear of
sleeping any more.
Mamma, however, never ceased making every objection and difficulty
she could think of.
You have no ball dress.
My white dress, dear mamma; I only wore it once.
It is old-fashioned.
A little bow of national ribbon, and you will have the prettiest of
new fashions, interrupted the dark officer.
But my foot aches, persevered mamma.
But there is no absolute necessity for your dancing, dear mamma.
The officers did not laughout of politeness; and for the same
reason, mamma did not scold me till they had gone away.
You foolish child, she said angrily, to rush openly in the face
of danger, and ruin yourself intentionally!
I thought mamma was afraid I should take cold, as she always was,
when I prepared for a ball; and to calm her fears I reminded her that
there was to be no waltzing. This made her still more angry. You have
no sense, she exclaimed. Do you suppose they are giving this ball
that they may dance? not at all! it is all finesseall a plot of the
national guards, to get the young girls of the town together, when they
will probably seize them, and carry them off to Turkey.
Ah, mamma! why, officers are not allowed to marry in time of war,
I reminded her, laughing.
On this she scolded me still more, called me a little goose, and
told me I should find out to my cost; and with this threat she left me
to prepare for the ball.
I was busy enough until evening getting everything ready. According
to the officer's advice I wore a broad red-white-green ribbon as a
sash, and my coiffure was a simple bouquet of white and red
roses, to which the green leaves gave the national colour. I never
observed before how well these colours blend.
The two officers waited on us en pleine parade, and paid us
so many compliments, I could not imagine how they learnt them all. I
was obliged to laugh, to put off my embarrassment.
Well, you will see tears will be the end of all this, said mamma;
but nevertheless she continued arranging and altering something or
other about my dress, that if they did carry me away, they should at
least find everything in order.
The officers accompanied us to the ballroom. I was already enjoying
the idea of the effect which my national ribbon and our two beaux would
produce; and, entre nous, I could not give up the hope, that if
all the others really had square heads, we should have the only two
round ones in the room!
But great was my mistake and surprise.
There was not one of my companions who had not at least twice as
much national ribbon on her dress as I had; and as to the officers, our
two cavaliers held but the third rank among them.
One was more agreeable, more fascinating, handsomer, livelier than
the other; how is it possible that men like these can shed so much
There was one in particular who attracted my attentionnot mine
alone, but everybody's. He was a young captainhis strikingly handsome
face, and tall, graceful figure became the braided attila so well, it
seemed to have been moulded on him.
And then his dancing! with what animation he went through the mazur
and csardas; one could have rushed through the crowd to embrace himI
do not talk of myself; and, what was more than dancingmore than
compliments, a je ne sais quoi in the large, dark, dreamy eyes;
you cannot imagine that, it is not to be describedit
bewildered, inspired, overpowered, and enchanted at the same moment. In
less than an hour, every girl in the room was in love with him. I do
not except myself. If they are as irresistible on the field of battle,
I do not know what could withstand them. Imagine my feelings, when all
at once he stepped up to me and requested the honour of the next
Unfortunately, I was engaged. What would I not have given at that
moment, had a courier entered to call away my dancer.
Perhaps the next one? said the captain, seating himself beside me.
I do not know what I said, or whether I replied at all; I only know
I felt as I do when flying in a dream.
But you will forget, perhaps, that you promised me? he continued.
Had I not suddenly recollected myself, I should probably have told
him that sooner could I forget my existence; however, I only replied,
in a very indifferent tone, that I should not forget.
But you do not know me!
A country simpleton would have answered in my place, Among a
hundredamong thousands! at the first glance!
Not I! As if I were doing the simplest thing in the world, I took a
single rosebud from my breast and gave it to him. I shall know you by
this, I said, without betraying the slightest agitation.
The captain silently pressed the rose to his lips; I did not look,
but I knew it. I would not have encountered his eyes at that
moment for all the world.
He then left me and sat down under a mirror opposite; he did not
dance, and seemed absorbed in his own reflections.
Meanwhile two csardas and a polonaise were danced, after which our
quadrille would come. You may conceive how long the time appeared;
these eternal harom a tanczes seemed absolutely to have no end. I
never saw people dance so furiously; and although it was the third
night they had not slept, nothing would tire them out. However, I
amused myself pretty well by making the acquaintance of the commander
of the battalion, Major Sch, who is a most diverting person.
His name is German; and though he speaks Hungarian shockingly, he
will always speak it, even if he is addressed in German or French. Then
he is most dreadfully deaf, and accustomed to such loud-toned
conversation, one would think the cannons were conversing together.
They say he is a very gallant soldier; but his appearance is not
prepossessingan uncouth, grotesque figure, with a long thin face,
short-cut hair, and a grisly beard, which is not at all becoming. But
the most amusing thing was, that what I spoke he did not hear; and what
he spoke I did not understand. He brought me over a box of bonbons
; and I complained of the badness of confectionary in our town. He
probably supposed from my grimace that somebody had offended me at the
ball, and answered something, from whichby the gestures which
accompanied itI could only infer that he intended cutting the
offender in pieces; unless indeed what others would express under such
circumstances may be the common gesticulation of men who live in war.
At last, my quadrille came. The band played the symphony, and the
dancers hastened to seek their partners.
My heart almost burst from my dress when I saw my dancer approach,
and, bowing low, press the little flower to his heart.
I fear my hand trembled as he took it in his; but I only smiled, and
made some observation about the music.
Ah, you are carrying off my neighbour! cried the major, laughing,
with one of his annihilating gesticulations.
As we joined the columns, somebody whispered behind us, What a
Ah, Ilma! how happy I was! I felt, as we stood there, hand in hand,
as if his blood were flowing into mine, and mine into his! We waited
for the music; but before it could begin, the noise of horses' feet
were heard galloping up the street, and, at the same time, several
cannons were fired at a distance, which made all the windows rattle.
Suddenly an officer entered the ballroom, with his csako on his head,
and covered with mud, and announced that the enemy had attacked the
The major had heard the cannon, and read from the courier's face
what he could not understand from his words.
Ah, that's right! he exclaimed, clapping his hands, and again
those fearful gestures by which people express killing. We were only
waiting for them, messieurs; we must ask our ladies for a few
moments' leavejust a few moments, mes dames; we shall return
immediately, and meanwhile you can rest.
And he hastened to put on his sword; all the other officers ran to
get theirsand I saw the gay, courtly, flattering expressions suddenly
change to angry, fierce, threatening countenances; but one and all
seemed eager to start, as if they had expected it all along.
My dancer, too, forsook me to look for his sword and csako. His step
was the firmest, his eye the keenest of all; if I had hitherto felt
happinessmore than happinessin looking at him, admiration,
enthusiasm now filled my breast.
As he buckled on his sword, a strange fever seemed to burn in all my
veins; I could have wished to be in the battle with him, to ride beside
him, and dash with him into the midst of the enemy!
He still held my rose in his hand, and, as he took up his csako, he
placed it beside the cockade; and then he turned back, as if he sought
something through the crowdour eyes met!he hastened away, and the
ballroom was empty!
Meanwhile we remained alone, as if nothing had happened; the major
had given orders that none should leave the rooms before his return. It
was the longest hour I ever spent.
Many of us stood at the windows listening to the cannon, and trying
to guess the result, as they sounded now nearer, now more distant. None
judged it advisable to go home, as the combat might have ended in the
streets, and they thought it better to await the decision where we
Ere long, the sounds began to recede further and further, till at
last they ceased entirely. The civilians concluded by this that the
national guards had gained the victory. They were right. In less than a
quarter of an hour we heard them return with great noise and clatter.
And the officers entered the room gaily, as if nothing had happened;
many of them wiped something from their drossperhaps mud or
bloodand each hastened to find and cheer his partner.
Where did we leave off? cried one.
At the quadrille, replied several at once, and began arranging the
columns as if they had just come out of the supper-room. My dancer and
the major were alone absent!
In vain my eyes were fixed on the doorevery instant some one
entered, but not the one I sought.
At last the major appeared. He looked round, and when he saw me,
immediately approached, and, making a grotesque bow, without waiting
for me to speak, Fair lady! he said, your dancer entreats your
pardon for this breach of politeness; but he is unable with the best
will to enjoy the happiness of dancing the française with you,
having been shot through the leg, which is obliged to be amputated
above the knee.
Oh, Ilma! I shall never dance a quadrille again.
I am very ill! I am overwhelmed by despair!